Apple Admits There's a World Beyond Apple

I just got back from the Apple iPhone/iTouch 3.0 press conference — and my ears are still ringing.  Literally.
Who knew Apple would get back to soundtracking its media events?

Even without Steve Jobs on stage, we journalists were treated to a selection from “Phantom of the Opera,” courtesy of the guys who started Smule, the company responsible for the “Ocarina” flute that’s been downloaded gazillions of times from the Apple app store. The company has something new on the musical horizon.  They call it the “Leaf Trombone.”  I admit, it’s cool, and while I never went for the blow-into-the-phone flute, I just might . . . OK, I’ll be honest, I’m not going to blow into my phone.  Ever.  But Leaf Trombone is neat, and they’ll probably move a million.

The third version of the iPhone/iTouch software strikes me as a well-timed admission, by Apple, that there is actual competition in smart phone land — not least of which the looming presence of the Palm Pre.  There’s lots of phones out there, and some pretty cool apps as well.  But Apple is the leader, and you don’t move 800 million apps unless you’ve got something on the ball.

With SDK 3.0, Apple has more on the ball.  Without getting into any minutae here, the tools now given to developers should help them bring better apps to the faithful.  It’s like when Microsoft came out with the XBox, and all of the sudden game developers at companies like Electronic Arts salivated over how good they could make new games.  Well, EA was up on stage today, showing off some games that I had to remind myself were being played on a phone.  And medical devices?  Awesome.  Imagine, a teenager not feeling self-conscious about managing her diabetes, because now she merely pulls out her iPod or iPhone.  All of the sudden, it’s cool.  That’s pretty wonderful.

If nothing else, Apple’s move forward was yet another challenge to the rest of the industry:  You might have come close, the company seemed to be saying, but now you’ll have to get even better to catch us.  Even in an economy like this one, there is nothing better for consumers than this kind of competition.

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