Apple announces a new era

“Go to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” — Wayne Gretzky

Steve Jobs ended his keynote this morning with that quote, but I’ll start with it because it pretty much sums up the news from Apple.

Jobs announced a new phone, a new iPod, and a new internet device. They’re all the same product — the Apple iPhone.

Is it as revolutionary as he claims? In a word, yes. I’ll refer you to or one of the Mac news sites for more information.

In my favorite part of the demo, Jobs was listening to music on the iPhone in iPod mode (he also could have been watching a movie on the 3.5″ screen — which automatically switches between portrait and landscape mode depending on how you hold the device) when a phone call came in. The iPhone automatically turned off the music (faded it out tastefully, of course) and gave him a choice with on-screen touch buttons of declining or accepting the call.

He answered the call, and the caller asked him for a photo, which he located in the phone’s iPhoto (did I mention the phone is running OSX? Yeah, really) and then he emailed it to the caller using an address in his Contacts (synced from his address book). He typed the message with a Qwerty keyboard that appears when you need it for email, search, or chat. With the caller still on the line, Jobs moved into internet mode (Safari is part of the iPhone software), went to his Fandango bookmark, and looked up local movie offerings.

After relaying the information to the caller, he touched the pulsing button that indictates an active call and ended the conversation. When he hung up, the song (remember the song?) faded back up.

Jobs then used Google Maps (part of the iPhone software) to locate the nearest Starbucks. He called and ordered 4,000 lattes, to go. “Sorry, wrong number,” he said as he ended the call with an astonished Starbucks employee.

Four other mind-boggling iPhone features:

  • The screen covers the entire device, bringing up an on-screen keyboard only when you need it for email or text messaging (the text message interface has colored balloons, like iChat).
  • All scrolling is done with your finger. A pinching movement (also tapping in Safari) increases the size of the screen image.
  • iPhone (developed in conjunction with Cingular Wireless) offers controlled access to voicemail messages. You see a list of the messages showing numbers (and, if available) the names of the callers. This means you can go right to the message you want instead of listening to a lot of blather. (I have to say, for me, that’s the “killer app.”)
  • If you have two calls on the phone, the phone presents you with a merge button (looks like a traffic merge sign) you can tap to create a conference call. This simple solution to a perennial phone nightmare of conferencing got gasps and applause from the crowd.

“You know, I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” Jobs said, as he ended the demo. “I was so excited about today.”

Jobs had opened the presentation by saying the new product would rank with the 1984 intro of the Mac and the 2001 intro of the iPod. I have to say I agree. And, as a former member of the iTunes Music Store team, I feel truly retired now. The era of the iPod is over. The era of the iPhone has begun.