One fun thing I like asking representatives from Nokia, Microsoft, or Research in Motion is “what does the post iPhone world look like?”
It is my way of sensing whether they’ve done any creative thinking. So far I’ve gotten mostly blank stares.
It’s like Steve Jobs has convinced everyone in the industry that nothing possibly can replace the iPhone on the coolest device shelf.
Me? I’ve seen this play before. Remember Sony’s Walkman?
I like pretending we live in a post iPhone world.
How do we get there?
Well, what would happen if we lived in a Twitter world? One where every light switch, every device, every machine, had a Twitter account?
I asked a Microsoft executive recently why they haven’t released a .NET/Silverlight runtime that Tweets.
His answer surprised me “have you signed our NDA yet?”
That’s code for “we’re working on just that.”
After all, Microsoft probably doesn’t like it that IBM has ruled enterprise marketing with its “Smart Planet” meme.
So, why would Microsoft support a Twitter world? Because if Microsoft helped Twitter build a world where everything has a Twitter API then Microsoft would also get the keys to the post-iPhone world.
Well, let’s assume that Microsoft had .NET runtimes on everything. Right now I’m staring at an IV machine in the hospital room where our next son will be born. Why couldn’t a doctor Tweet that machine? Using a message that looks something like this:
@sequoia_iv_0451 set level to 1 pt per hour
That would change the drip rate on her machine to 1 pint per hour.
That doesn’t seem that important, does it? But now what if EVERY device in the hospital had a runtime like this and could be queried through a Twitter language?
Wouldn’t that open up new application possibilities that don’t exist today? Absolutely!
Wouldn’t that encourage new kinds of devices to be built? Absolutely!
Wouldn’t that mean we’d need a replacement for the iPhone? Absolutely!
Why? Well, let’s put it this way. If you had tons of devices in your world that you wanted to interact with TweetDeck or SimplyTweet just wouldn’t cut it.
Now, what if Microsoft made such a Twitter system more reliable? After all, if a doctor is going to have a device that will talk to all sorts of machines during surgery there can’t be a possibility of a fail whale.
Once Microsoft got .NET runtimes out in enough things they could come in and build a shadow Twitter that’s more reliable than Twitter and that has some cool features.
Then once that’s done Microsoft could ship a post-iPhone world. Why? Because they would be able to build a device that would be optimized for this Twitter world.
Oh, OK, this is all science fiction. After all it’s preposterous to think that the iPhone won’t stay on the coolest device shelf forever.