Jack’s 1st food!

Jack’s 1st food!

If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you’ll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon.

Steve Jobs

You have to truly believe, as a company, and as peers, that crucial innovations and improvements can come from everyone at the company at any time, in bottom-up fashion – they aren’t delivered from on high at scheduled release intervals in the almighty Master Plan.

Jeff Atwood

What I want in the 2012 iPhone: OMT

Ask any tech blogger this question and they’ll answer immediately: What needs to be in the next iPhone?

Based on the mill so far the next iPhone needs: LTE, NFC, a bigger screen, a thinner screen, a better screen, a smaller dock and a better camera.

So, as a tech enthusiast, what is my answer?

OMT

Without this next-generation technology, Apple’s ability to draw attention to new iPhones and new products in general will be reduced. The stock price will dip. Tim Cook’s reputation will be diminished. People will talk about all the talented Apple staff that has either left the company, or who are old and tired or who are not allowed to think for the future. Without this technology, the next iPhone sales are doomed.

So what exactly is OMT?

OMT = One More Thing. Something the Cupertino company has been including in products at least once a year since 1998.

One More Thing is the extra-special-almost-forgot-to-tell-you-o-m-g moment of the Stevenotes over the years. Jobs would talk about the company’s current situation in keynote, discuss in elated terms the new products coming forth and then - perhaps - sometimes - just sometimes - he’d talk about one more thing.

OMT Apple history

The OMT has had some great moments including Apple’s return to profitability in 1998, the iMac in 1999, the iPod Shuffle in 2005, the aluminum unibody MacBook in 2008 and FaceTime in 2010. (Those are my picks, everyone has different opinions on the best reveals.)

And even some of my favorite most-exciting Apple unveils have not been OMT’s at all. The most notable two being the iPhone and iPad. My list also includes: the app store in iOS 3, the first retina screen, Find My Friends and Cards.

The most important reason for a OMT is for Apple to unveil in a keynote some sort of amazing I-had-no-clue-that-was-coming-feature. It’s about telling a story. The shock and delight. The surprise.

OMT is MIA

Plenty of people have looked for faults on how Tim Cook is running Apple. And with profits pouring in and customer satisfaction higher than ever, it’s hard to criticize his performance.

The criticism I have is that everything - so far at least - has made too much sense. Everything seems logical, well-reasoned, a great fit in the market that serves the desired purposes people did or didn’t know they had.

What’s missing then? Whimsy. A sense of adventure and different and the unknown. The Cards app unveiled two years ago for the iPhone lets people create and mail physical letterpress notes. That’s not something people need. That doesn’t make money for Apple (and if it does, not much). It’s something strange and fun, and you can see the amount of beautiful detail in the design of the app and look and feel of the cards.

Or in the iPod Shuffle. Just as music players were all moving to offer intuitive controls so people can pay for just the song they want and then play exactly the song they want anywhere and at anytime Steve unveiled the Shuffle. A white chewing gum-shaped device that only let you turn it on and off, adjust the volume and skip to the next song. You’d put just the music you want on the device, but then it would be a musical journey as you shifted from one artist to another with no flow and no control.

Sure spending a good amount of money on building something just for fun that could end up as a flop is not logical. 

And that non-sensical work is what Google engineers are expected to do for 20% of their week. And Google has kept the hacker types excited by unveiling whimsical, money-is-no-object projects such as Google Glasses and the new Google maps. Of course, Google is missing the other half of the formula (check out this new thing - AND it’s shipping today).

OMT in 2012

The one more thing in 2012 might just be the Apple TV (Apple’s “hobby”). But, I think the 2012 iPhone must pack an unknown punch.

That rules out a thinner, bigger, sharper screen. And that may even rule out NFC (unless there’s some sort of unknown and cool partnership such as the leading banks or a group of retailers).

I don’t even think it matters all that much what the OMT is, how many people will end up using it or how much it cost to develop.

What matters is that Apple surprise people. And, I hope Apple has something strange and new up its sleeve. Or, as Willy Wonka said:

"The suspense is terrible…I hope it’ll last."

A helpful way to think about this is that Apple makes money from great apps by selling the hardware to run them, while Google loses money from great apps, since they lead to less web search.

Benedict Evans