If you don’t already have an iPhone, go get one. Get one for all of the obvious reasons. First, it’s a great phone, the best I have ever owned. Get one because of the outstanding way in which the directory works; among other things allowing you to keep all of the contact numbers for someone in your life – home, cell, work, lake house, whatever – in a single easy-to-retrieve record.
Get an iPhone because you can listen to music on it, watch movies on it or retrieve your email on it. Get one because you can surf the web, get the current weather or follow your investment portfolio on it.
Get one for any of these or dozens of other obvious reasons.
But I’m about to explain an even better, though less obvious reason to get one. I’m about to explain that an iPhone is a real-life, practical lesson in the miracle of the free market. If you already have an iPhone, bear with me. There’s a point here.
When an iPhone comes out of the box there is on the home screen an icon for what is called the “App Store.” The App Store is where you go to get iPhone applications, the sum of which constitute the true genius of Steve Jobs, Apple Computing and the iPhone.
No matter what interests you, there is an iPhone “app” for it. Are you an amateur astronomer? I quit counting at 100 astronomy apps that included a virtual planetarium in your hand, lunar maps and phases, information on solar events, eclipses, stellar conjunctions and more. Prices for these applications ranged from free to $18.99.
Pick another interest. We’re sponsored by a wine maker. Let’s talk wine. There are several hundred applications for wine enthusiasts including apps that help you find hard-to-find wines, dozens of wine rating guides, guides on pairing foods with wines, guides to wine-tasting tours, and guides on selecting wines when dining out.
There’s an app called “Radiolicious.” It’s free and when you download it, you can take KTBB with you wherever you travel.
Pick any subject, vocation, avocation or interest, and chances are there are dozens, if not hundreds, of iPhone apps available free or for a very nominal price. Dozens, if not hundreds, of new apps come on line every day.
How does this happen?
Well, I can tell you how it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen because of a top-down effort on the part of Apple.
Most apps are created by enterprising individuals – men and women who have gone to the Apple iPhone website, registered as developers for free, downloaded the software developers kit and gone to work to create an app that they believe users will want and perhaps pay for.
The genius lies in the fact that instead of creating a massive application development bureaucracy within Apple – complete with someone bearing the title of Senior Deputy Assistant Vice President of Mobile Software Application Analysis and Design – Steve Jobs simply set some ground rules, put some infrastructure in place and then got out of the way. He thus allowed the creative genius that is dispersed across millions and millions of iPhone users and fans help make his product one of the most successful consumer products in human history (and all in spite of a withering economic recession).
The miracle of the iPhone App Store is the millions of individuals that each bring their unique knowledge and creativity to bear in pursuit of their own self interest, and yet to the ultimate betterment of the iPhone for every user. The App Store would never be as successful if it relied solely on the necessarily limited number of people that Apple could hire and put on the payroll.
The analogy to the American economy is almost exact. America got rich because it wrote a constitution that got out of the way of the people and in so doing unleashed their talents to create what has up until now been the world’s most successful economy.
Mr. President, I’ll buy you an iPhone. And if you quit trying to be the commissar of a $14 trillion economy and instead learn what the iPhone teaches about free markets, free enterprise and the nearly unlimited economic power of free people, I’ll even vote for you.