Friday, January 19, 2007


Mike Elgan at Computerworld (and then again at MacWorld) tells us why he thinks Steve Jobs blew the iPhone launch, big-time. Here's why he's wrong, point for point. 1. Jobs raised buyer expectations too high Elgan reckons the enormous publicity surrounding the iPhone will backfire as users and analysts figure out what it can't do. This was already happening less than an hour after the keynote, as geeks realised they couldn't load up their Java apps or use it as a modem for their laptops, and it was entirely calculated to happen that way. By the June launch these people will have settled down to play with their Linux smartphones again, and the rest of us can focus on what actually matters in a phone: Features that the average person can use, not bullet points on a spec sheet. If running a Terminal SSH session to your ISP's telnet account is important to you (or if you even know what that means) then the iPhone isn't for you. Buy one for your mother instead, and they'll love you for it. If you know what an Ogg Vorbis file is, you probably didn't want an iPod. Newsflash: They sold pretty well without you. 2. Jobs raised Wall Street expectations too high Elgan points out correctly that the 10 million sales target is way higher than 1% of the smartphone market. Spot on, and that's why this isn't a smartphone, no matter what SJ had to say to launch it. At least it's not a smartphone in the way you think it is. It's more correctly a featurephone, like my K610i or my 6280, only this time with features I can actually use, or even find. Email on every phone I've ever owned has been a nightmare; even using the halfway decent Opera Mini browser to access the web is a less-than-pleasant experience. I gave up with Nokia's WebKit-based browser on the N80 after 3 minutes of struggling with the unresponsive and badly-designed hardware. 10 million is still a tall order, but you don't really think Apple is going to try that with a single $599 phone do you? Do you think the iPod sold that many in its first, or even second iteration, and at its $400 launch price? 3. Jobs gave competitors a head start By announcing in January, Jobs gave competitors 5 months to match the iPhone it would seem. I guess that's true if you think that we've seen all the iPhone will offer. Me? I think Jobs could have personally delivered product schematics and specifications to Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Panasonic, and they'd still screw it up. And while they're all pitching the features their smartphones already have (remember these guys are convinced the iPhone just spins things they've been doing for years in a pretty box) Apple may just blindside them by selling a premium product to a market segment that's been grousing about phones that don't work as well as their iPod do. This is a much longer game, and it's not about killing the Blackberry or the Treo. Trust me, Apple wouldn't even touch a market that small. Oh and Elgan neglects to mention that Apple didn't have a choice about not announcing the iPhone – the FCC would have announced every detail of the phone long before launch, no matter how tight Apple keeps things. 4. Jobs undermined Apple TV hype Apple should have focused on the Apple TV at MacWorld? I guess you don't own Apple stock Mike? The Apple TV is a headless iPod with wireless and HD output. It's a fun product, a strategic one even, but it's not a game-changer. Anyway, with the hype surrounding the iPhone, and the subsequent disappointment that one can't actually buy it yet there's bound to be a whole bunch of Apple TV boxes sold. It would have taken a brave man to go to the MacWorld stage with just an Apple TV to pitch, and the time was right for the iPhone. 5. Jobs put iPod sales at risk Ok, so I have a bunch of Christmas money, term's about to start, and there's a really sweet 4Gb iPod nano in the Apple store, but I'm going to wait 5/6 months to blow $500 on a new phone instead. Give me a break. The pricing and announcement-to-availability window are calculated entirely to maximise iPod sales. Like everybody didn't know this was coming already. I suspect a bunch of people who were waiting for the phone to launch just decided to get that nano, or that 5G, right away. 6. Jobs wrecked Cisco talks I don't see how Elgan can call this one without knowing a lot more about what really went on. To me, it looks like Cisco were trying to spin a pretty spurious trademark (one that trades off of a lot of goodwill around the iPod, with very few products to show) and get some kind of agreement from Apple to inter-operate with their VOIP products. That's a lot of work, and would likely create a lot of confusion around the Apple product (not to mention really pissing off Cingular). I expect Apple was willing to pay for the name, or for licensing it, but Cisco were demanding something much more involved. I suspect Cisco's gamble will prove regrettable, as Apple can afford to pay for the name, or just change it. Either way they win.

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