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Thread: iPhone Sizzle or Fizzle?
06-29-2007, 07:40 AM #1
iPhone Sizzle or Fizzle?
An interesting read from Bob Sullivan, of MSNBC, and his personal views on the iPhone. Does raise a few good points while others will quickly be debunked, I'm sure
This is the day we'll see one of the most successful product launches in history. It will be studied in classrooms for years -- by public relations students.
The launch of the iPhone is a phenomenon. Not a technology phenomenon -- a marketing phenomenon. For weeks, we've been pounded with incremental stories about this new little phone -- it will play YouTube videos! Its battery is new and improved (already?)! In 13 years of covering technology, I can't recall another product launch with more hype that the Apple's iPhone, unless you reach all the way back to the Rolling Stones and Windows 95 (Acadian: I would interject that the 2006 Sony PS3 also came with much hype). Well, maybe Dean Kamen's roller/scooter, going-to-change-commuting-forever thingy. What was that called, anyway?
Sorry, Apple faithful: It's not worth the hype.
Before you all start bickering with me, I've invited other MSNBC.com technology writers and editors, as well as NBC News correspondent George Lewis, to bicker with me. In the spirit of this overhyped day, we're calling this new feature Red Tape Wrestlemania! After my colleagues call me stupid, you can do the same below.
Let me qualify what I'm about to say this way: Apple has a built-in following which will make the iPhone qualified success, no matter what it is and what it does.
But there are so many factors that will limit iPhone's success, I don't know where to begin. Given all the whiz and all the bang, will it really last all day and play your iTunes on you evening commute? If it doesn't, you'll still need an iPod. Then what good is it?
More on point, what if Cingular's signal at your condo sucks? No matter how slick the thing looks, if the phone drops calls, you've got a $600 paperweight on your hands. Remember, Cingular/AT&T is the customer service complaint champ over at the Federal Communications Commission, and at Consumer Reports. Tying the Apple name to Cingular/AT&T service is certainly a risk.
What if Cingular's EDGE broadband network lives up to its reputation as inferior to Verizon's EV-DO network, or T-Mobile's 3G network? It's cool to receive e-mail attachments on your phone, not cool when your friend's $299 phone gets them faster. Web browsing on EDGE will likely be painfully slow. Again, if you get an iPhone and you need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot to use it, you have a very expensive, old-fashioned cell phone in your pocket there.
And what happens when you scratch that $600 screen with the keys in your pocket? Or when the battery dies after 300-400 charges? Or if your company won't fiddle with its servers and allow you to access corporate e-mail with it?
Apple hopes to sell 10 million of these things in the first year, and it probably will. But Cingular/AT&T only has 60 million total customers. Getting many more than 10 million of them to buy this top-of-the-line phone will be quite a trick. Will the iPhone raid other services' customers? Not so easy -- 50 percent of Americans say they can't switch because of early termination fees.
Then there's the gadget itself. Being Apple, I'm sure the interface will be a knockout. If anyone can make something out of touch-screen technology, which to date has really only worked on ATMs, it would be Apple. When I watch those TV ads, however, I imagine all but the most digitally dexterous will clumsily fat-finger through their e-mail day after day. Oops, didn't mean to open that. Oops, didn't mean to close that. I use my fingers now on my smart phone. It ain't pretty.
Launch of the iPhone has been repeatedly -- and erroneously -- been compared to launch of the iPod. How quickly we forget. When the iPod arrived, the music download business -- business? -- was in utter chaos. Most files were stolen. Regular people didn't know what tunes played on what gadgets. MP3 players, such as they were, behaved like small, hard-to-use computers. Into this vacuum came Apple, with a beautiful device that had only two buttons. The gadget brought harmony to chaos, and it literally created the legitimate music download business.
There is no parallel to today's cell phone market. Adults already know how to use their phones; kids have no trouble texting each other. A new gadget with incremental improvements -- slightly better cell phone pictures, but nothing you'd really send home to grandma -- is certainly welcome. Here's hoping Apple pushes other smartphone makers to greater things. (Can we please talk on the phone and receive an e-mail at the same time? Anyone?)
But once Steve Jobs finishes downloading money from Apple faithful in the next few weeks, expect quite a slog (and soon, much lower prices) for the iPhone.