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Josh Levy

Josh Levy

Posted: July 11, 2008 10:48 AM

The iPhone Changes the World, One App Store at a Time


I can be a pain in the butt when it comes to Apple naysaying, and I could be accused of being an iPhone-owning, Macbook-tapping, iTunes-downloading hypocrite, but every time Apple launches a new marketing blitz we endure an exhausting parade of claims that the new product will "change the world." There's no doubt that the new iPhone and, more importantly, the 2.0 software update, is very, very cool, and it does represent an evolution in mobile computing. But I'm confused about why so many of my fellow geeks find it necessary to describe this new product in terms typically reserved for advocacy campaigns or political slogans.

One hyperbolic review of the new App Store suggests a change of Barackian proportions:
changetheworld.png

I expected it to read "Five ways the App Store will change your world," or maybe "...our world," but this is making a much bigger claim: TUAW blogger Mike Schramm (who's a great blogger, by the way) is claiming that the world is about to be rocked -- no, changed -- by downloadable mini-applications for the iPhone.

I sure hope that's true, but somehow I'm unconvinced.

It needs to be said that some peoples' worlds will be changed. For those folks -- count me in -- who use their iPhones daily and spend way too much time online, the iPhone is a wonderful little object. It's connected, it knows where you are, it makes Twittering impossibly easy, it can now tell you what song you're listening to, and so on. My daily life of electronic interaction and absorption will indeed be changed.

But again, folks are talking about "the world," not "my world."

I will be a father in a little more than two months. I find it hard to believe that the world my son or daughter inherits will be fundamentally different than mine thanks to the Apple Store. I've long debated with Mac-loving friends the legitimacy of claims that Apple and its Macintoshes have changed the world. Although I do believe the Internet has changed the world, it's not because of the computers we use to access it. Instead, it's revolutionary because of the people who use it to create an ever-expanding social fabric that has changed the ways we organize, conduct politics, date, meet friends, make music, build things, etc. Will the iPhone make some of those activities easier? No doubt. But the hard stuff of change -- building coalitions, electing new leaders, enacting legislation, creating jobs -- is done by we the people. No amount of new toys, no matter how well connected, will change that.

As we all post tweets on the new Twitterfic iPhone app (it's really fantastic), we're continue to be stuck in war we can't escape; global warming is engulfing the planet (and these little iPhones aren't helping); easily treated diseases kill millions of people a year; there are food riots in Haiti; too much of the world is ruled by anti-Democratic dictators like Robert Mugabe; and so on.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm the hyperbolic one. Perhaps I'm comparing Apple to oranges, but then again, it wasn't me who came up with this "change the world" business.

I could also be having a simple fit of jealousy. I'm managing editor at Change.org, and I'm possibly subconsciously annoyed that Appleites -- not to mention that Obama guy -- are stealing our brand.

I could be the one being too literal. Maybe the "change the world" vibe isn't meant to evoke images of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or John Lennon.

Oh, wait...

appleThink-gandhi.jpg

In any case, I'm willing to accept that I'm taking this all a little too far. Maybe I'm insane and the sane ones are those waiting in long lines at every Apple store in America today. Have you seen how cool the iPhone's Facebook application is?


Follow Josh Levy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/levjoy