The iPhone Tipping Point

Apple's much awaited iPhone cellular device will be available to consumers in about one month.

The svengali Steve Jobs has written the script and executed it with the precision of a skilled surgeon. His announcement was long enough ago to give a heads-up to cellular customers who had contracts expiring soon.

Jobs even created the theater behind the introduction of the iPhone. Just go to the Apple web site and see if you can't get excited about it.

Mobile experts are touting this phone as the killer app -- the first intuitive mobile device that integrates everything the next generation is hooked on and more. It's going to be tough going for competitors -- the ones who used to give us the RAZRs and Sidekicks and other promises of an integrated mobile life.

The record business is a bystander here but they should be a player. Jobs holds all the cards so if they want to play now, he deals.

The iPhone will spell disaster for the radio industry -- not so much with Gen X and aging boomers, but with Gen Y and younger demos. Their world now consists of texting, talking, playing games, listening to music, taking pictures and hopefully watching video. Now they can do it all in one place.

Radio can't do this even if the industry woke up and got back to the programming business with a vengeance. They've let it slip away as their brothers and sisters at the record labels have done.

I may be wrong but I see the advent of the first iPhone as the tipping point for radio and records. What they haven't been able to kill off by their own inability to cooperate with the future, the iPhone will kill off now.

It's not all hopeless. There's a lot of business and money to be made by programming music radio to the older generations who are still happy with it. And there's always going to be a ton of cars and unless or until automakers replace terrestrial radios with Internet radios someday, radio can manage, but it's big growth days are gone.

To be a major player again, the radio industry needs to develop the next technology (preferably without the letters H and D in it). Radio let a second-tiered computer company (Apple) design a device (iPod) that eventually led to the iPhone.

When the end of June arrives, mark the meaning -- radio and the record industry has reached the tipping point -- the point beyond which only decline can come without a radical new approach to content and programming.