There has been a huge hoopla about Apple's new 3G iPhone. As I sit here, I am waiting for the courier to deliver mine into my hot and sweaty palms.
However, the phone itself is actually NOT the biggest thing Apple launched last Friday. How do I know this? Because I downloaded the new 2.0 software onto my old phone over the weekend. And this software is going to change the way we use our mobile phones. For ever.
The hottest feature in this software is the App store. From your phone you can easily download new applications with a few touches of the screen. Some are free, and some you pay for. When you download them, they just pop up on the homescreen of your phone. Now, if you have ever tried the torture of downloading anything to your normal mobile phone, you will know this is a revolution.
So, in less then two minutes I had on my iPhone a BA application to check arrival and departure times. And another to write posts for this blog, on my phone. All these applications actually work, are simple, and share the same iPhone look and feel.
Now, the iPhone was already easy to use before this. I was checking weather and stock prices, browsing the web, buying songs from iTunes and the like. But now, with these sorts of tools on my phone it really will become, years after it was promised, "a PC in my pocket".
And its not only me who thinks the App store is big news. Wall Street analysts Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray & Co. has said it could generate as much as $1.2 billion in revenue for Apple (revenue is split 30% for Apple, 70% for the application provider).
What can we learn from what Apple is doing with the App store?
1. Really, really, really solve a problem for consumers
Apple seem to be one of the few tech companies that have remembered that this is what marketing and business in general is all about. Identifying problems, and solving them for people. Not shoving technology at people and then trying to persuade them to use it. What Apple's iPhone does do is make things so easy, and even elegant, that you want to use them
2. Turn partners into fans
Many experts say that a key reason for Apple's puny share of PCs was a refusal to open up its operating system to 3rd parties. This is not a mistake Apple has made this time. With the iPhone they have launched a "Software Developer Kit" (SDK) that makes it easy for partner companies to create applications for the App store. And boy do these companies love the SDK. Check out what Walt Disney's head of mobile engineering had to say: "After working with hundreds of other mobile devices, developing for iPhone is a breath of fresh air. The software development tools are intuitive and represent a level of polish rarely seen."
3. Weave your brand into the fabric of life
The App store is one more step in making the iPhone an integral part of peoples' lives. Its a phone, but also a mobile device for managing your life. And this means they will use it a lot, which in turn creates loyalty and more revenue.
4. Nice and easy
Make it easy for people to use your brand. Don't ask them to think too hard, or work at it. This is why you should run a mile from anyone proposing a "consumer education programme" for your brand. If you need to educate people on how to use your brand, you're in big trouble. Spend the time and money fixing the product or service to make it easy and intuitive to use, not on sending them to brand school.