Earlier this month my brother, father, and I went to Macworld in San Francisco, waking up at 4:00 AM on Tuesday to get into Steve Jobs’s keynote. We were amazed by the iPhone — definitely under the influence of Steve’s Reality Distortion Field. It wasn’t until the Cingular CEO took the stage (snore) that I realized how tired and hungry I was.
During the keynote, I was especially impressed by the idea of developing applications for the iPhone since it runs Mac OS X. Turns out that will not be a possibility; the phone is locked from outside developers.
There are two kinds of customer lock-in: by the company or by the customer. (Who holds the knob of the one-knobbed door.)
Some companies lock in customers with contracts, cancellation fees, and being difficult to work with — mobile phone companies, cable TV companies, 1and1.com, and Tivo.
Other companies lock in customers by building phenomenal products and platforms, fostering great communities, and inspiring loyalty (even evangelism) — Apple, WordPress, Bluehost.com. Customers don’t want to leave companies like these; they lock themselves in.
At $500-600, I’m not convinced a locked-down iPhone is right for me. (Maybe.) But if I had the ability to develop applications for an always-on, Internet-connected device, I’d lock myself in.
Bonus: This Nightline video covers the announcement of the iPhone, including an exclusive with Steve Jobs. From :37 to :40 (or 5:16 to 5:13) you can see my father walking along 4th Street early Tuesday morning while my brother and I waited in line. (He brought us back Denny’s.)