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How Apple’s killing of the headphone jack reflects the IT Industry

Apple has a history of killing old standards, no matter how much you like them. It’s a tough decision but somebody has to make it. It’s a lot like the IT industry.

The IT industry has carved its history by being bold and going against the grain. No one wanted the first computer. People preferred the old ways.

Each big progress in the IT industry comes with a big shake-up. The ones that prefer the old ways, are the ones that usually end up on the losing side. Case in point – back in 2007 when Apple first introduced the iPhone, some other CEOs said that the phone is a gimmick and it will never be accepted by consumers. Then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer even said the hardware QWERTY keyboard on phones is here to stay. Nokia followed suit and introduced such a phone (the N97).

Where are both companies now? Nokia went from the number 1 phone maker to being split up and sold to Microsoft. And Microsoft is nowhere to be found in the smartphone market. They simply missed out the opportunity and even worse – thought the old ways are the best.

Be bold

It’s a great reflection of the IT industry. You have to be bold and brave. But you also have to pick your moments. There are many projects that are even more innovative, but are so forward, they are simply coming too soon for most consumers. 3D for example, Virtual Reality and so on.

Apple has a history of saying goodbye to old standards only to see the rest following suit. The company killed off the floppy drive, the optical drive in laptops. It gave the push to USB to become the most widely used port. Apple usually does the safe risk and chooses to kill off old tech which usage is already on the downward trend.

The 3.5 mm headphone jack is NOT one of them. People still love the tech even if it’s coming from the 1870s. The last time the headphone jack was updated was 50 years ago and it just became smaller. That’s that. But it still works, it’s universal and people love it.

Be hungry

At the same time, it stops technical progression. There are already better technologies out there. Plus, the 3.5 mm jack is not really that thin or practical in the world of wireless phones. So, if we want the smartphone to do away with the old and go ahead with new stuff, it’s time to say goodbye to the 3.5 mm jack.

Consumers won’t be happy for a while, for sure, even though there is an adapter in the box. But they will probably appreciate the long term effect from the change. This should be better headphone tech, better sound quality, ease of use. It’s a great example for the IT industry which sometimes has to be reminded of its roots – to be bold and go forward before everyone are ready for it. Otherwise it risks to go from a leader to a gainer. And no one wants that.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / William Hook