Last August, Marc Andreessen wrote a great essay titled "Why software is eating the world". In his article, which got a lot of attention in the tech world, Marc explains why and how a variety of industries have been and continue to be disrupted by software. Read it if you haven't read it yet, it's a well-written and inspiring post by one of the most successful and knowledgable people in the Internet industry.
Recently I read about the concept of "dematerialization" (in the book "Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think" by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler). The book quotes Bill Joy saying "We're seeing the tip of the dematerialization wave, like when a phone dematerializes a camera. It just disappears." and goes on to list a number of other goods and services that are now available with the average smartphone.
Software is eating the world, but the smartphone is pretty hungry too.
There's no real contradiction here though, since a large part of the smartphone's appetite for disruption is driven by software as well (although innovations in the hardware used by smartphones play an important role too). Either way, I think it's a fascinating observation. When I look at myself, my iPhone has already replaced my wristwatch, a pocket translator, a GPS running watch, a travel alarm clock, an address book, a calendar and an MP3 player. Most of the time it also replaces my camera, camcorder and calculator.
In his now legendary launch presentation of the first iPhone, Steve Jobs said:
Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough internet communications device.It probably took most of us some time to really get it. But now we're getting it. And it's not just three separate devices which the iPhone is replacing, it's dozens of devices.
So, three things. A widescreen iPod with touch controls. A revolutionary mobile phone. And a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod. A phone. And an internet communicator. An iPod. A phone. Are you getting it?
These are not three separate devices. This is one device.