No other event in the brief history of the exponential world was as perfectly timed as Apple’s iPhone release in 2007. This moment was so important that we argue that technology will be defined as pre-iPhone and post-iPhone. The iPhone was a major catalyst for mass digitization and mobilization of technology. This was not just another product launch; rather, Apple launched disruption that would forever change the world.
It was a similar moment to when Gates released Windows. The world went digital. Suddenly, people wanted a computer even if they did not think they needed one before. When the iPhone launched, people already had smartphones or flip phones with many of the features. Yet the iPhone made them desire smartphones. Consequently, the world went mobile. In 2007, when Steve Jobs and Apple released the iPhone, they nailed the timing. The guy who created the first iPhone, Marc Porat, did not. He had single handedly laid the vision for the iPhone seventeen years earlier. He was the exponential leader that never was.
In 1976, Marc Porat was a student at Stanford and had just finished writing his PhD thesis, arguing that the “Information Economy” would be the future of the United States. Information technology, Porat claimed, “. . . would become the dominant driver of the U.S. workforce.” (1) Simply put, information technology is “The study or use of systems (especially computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information.” (2) Porat argued that computers would become so powerful that they would build their own economy. This economy would be superior to all previous economies and would fundamentally change how business would be done in the future. Porat defined the future in a way that few had done at this point in history. Porat laid the foundation for exponential theory.
Marc Porat is credited as the first person to coin “Information Economy,” the term that encompassed an entire economy built on the use of information technology and the “knowledge workers” that built it. (3) Surely Porat had no idea how important his assertion would become in 1976. Forty-three years later in 2019, Harvard Business Review argued that data economy power “could determine the next world order, much like the role that oil production has played in creating economic power players in the preceding century.” (4)