The transition of the information era from the analog age to the digital age is quite an interesting story for United States. Its experience in World War II (The Manhattan Project) and its emergence as a commendable super power after it has had a commendable influence in the development in technology (military technology especially) for the decades that followed. (Some people may think Area 51 had a big hand in the country’s tech development. But we are not talking about that here).
The technological foundations that were laid out during the war times have served as a big boost for the country to build more and give more to the world. Numerous private organizations have reaped the benefits of the technology outcomes of this foundation.
Apple Incorporation, a key contender that played a huge role in transformation of technology in the late 1900s and early 2000s, is no exception. Let’s see how the US Government or the Government aided programs contributed towards the success of iPhone.
The contribution of US Government in iPhone’s success can be described as ‘universal’ and ‘indirect’. There was no direct support or funding from the government to run the company, market the iPhone and help it reach the masses (or classes in this case).
But the technologies or advancements that were born out of various research programs or ventures that were funded or facilitated by various departments and arms of the US Government for military applications, science research etc formed as a corpus or repository of technology for Apple to make use of and build the iPhone.
The role of the US Government
The list of few technology components funded by the US Government that’s sitting in the iPhone are best described below
Cellular technology – First to begin with, the cellular technology had varied origins. But it was the US military research and funding to it during the WWII that made it an invincible communication tool which was later commercialized by technology companies.
Internet – DARPA – ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was the brainchild of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1960s which formed the basis for today’s internet. This is crucial for the iPhone as Steve Jobs described iPhone as a significant combination of Phone, Internet and Music in one device.
SIRI – DARPA – SIRI – Apple’s intelligent personal assistant is one of the projects of SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center which is again a branch of CALO project funded by the DARPA. SIRI was initially released an app for iOS and then Apple made an intelligent decision to acquire SIRI and deployed it efficiently.
Global Positioning System – DoD/NAVY – GPS is originally called as the NAVSTAR GPS which is still owned by US Government and operated by the US Air Force. It was founded by the US DoD in the 1970s for military and naval applications. GPS technology was allowed for civilian use in the 1980s which was adopted by Apple and other Tech companies.
Touch Screen – DoE, DoD – The Department of Energy and the Department of Defense have played a huge role in unearthing the rare earth metals and materials (called as technology metals) which are used in the touch screens of the smart phones. Apple adopted this in the early stages and familiarized the multi touch concept in the industry and invested in the refinements of the nascent technology and those refinements were patented by Apple for use in iPhones.
Fast Fourier Transforms –Army research office – Army Research Office, an arm of US Army Research Laboratory has partly funded and played a significant role in Very Large Scale Implementation (VLSI) of Fast Fourier Transform Algorithms which are used in Apple iPhones for faster and effective digital signal processing.
A lithium ion battery – DoE – Rechargeable batteries was a breakthrough technology that had infinite civilian and military applications whose development was highly facilitated by the Department of Energy in the United States. The invincible nature of these Li ion batteries transported it into applications in mobile telephony which was later adapted by Apple for its iPhones.
“Considering the above mentioned points, The US Government and allied arms of it have a considerable part in Apple’s success.”
These technologies described above are essential for building any smart phone where its maker would combine it as per the expertise of design it possess and imagination of the maker. But Apple has touched greater heights of success in the smart phone area by its brilliant design ideas, appropriate market positioning, building a culture around the iPhone, and effectively harnessing the available resources and many more reasons.
Who should take the credit?
Considering the above mentioned points, The US Government and allied arms of it have a part in Apple’s success. However, there have been several assertions from prominent people surrounding the industry crediting whole of the iPhone’s success to the US Government than the Apple team itself.
It cannot be an agreeable point of argument considering the fact that these technological developments of the research programs by the US Government have not only benefited Apple but hundreds of other tech companies.
Besides, it was the effective utilization, application and deployment of these available resources and coupling them with the Apple’s company strategies and vision that has made the company indomitable and iPhone the most loved product.
The sheer success of the iPhone seems to have drawn this sort of attention to the company where the assertions may look impractical considering the today’s ethical technology business practices.
Clearly the government may have been the unsung hero behind the screens for not being credited for the technological shift in time. But crediting the government more than Apple for the success of iPhones can be considered as an overstatement and pinpointing Apple alone seem juvenile.