Jack Gold, Computerworld, “Will Anyone Answer When Apple iPhones Home?,” January 10th, 2007:
Why am I not impressed?
First, making an entertainment device is much different from making a phone. Over the years, plenty of phones offering lots of nice “toys” for users have disappointed. Ultimately, they were not very good phones. And the bottom line is that you have to build a good phone first, and then add features on top of that. Otherwise, don’t bother. You can ask Nokia, Motorola, RIM and others about this. All have had flops with what on paper were devices that looked marvelous. Another difference between phones and entertainment devices is that phones must be much more rugged and less prone to breakage while being subjected to all kinds of abuse. Can the iPhone take such abuse without a high failure rate? We’ll have to see.
Second, the price is steep. Yes, I understand that the astronomical list prices of $500 and $600 are simply initial inflations meant for the early adopters willing to pay almost anything (and to limit volumes while Apple ramps up to catch up to demand). But even if the prices were cut in half, that is hefty for a phone device these days, even one with loads of features. How many consumers are willing to pay that much, plus $40 to $80 per month for a plan that includes data services (which will be necessary to access many of the phone’s features).
Third, who is the target for this device? At $300 to $400 (assuming the price falls rapidly), an iPhone clearly is not a casual buy. In the past, most high-end phones have been sold to business users willing to pay for a fancy phone with the capabilities they wanted. But these users almost universally demand connectivity to corporate systems, especially through push e-mail and Outlook integration. How well the iPhone does at integrating to these systems remains to be tested. And although I would bet the iPhone will integrate and sync well with the Mac, very few businesses run on Macs. If the iPhone doesn’t do a good job with PCs, Apple has a big problem.
Fourth, the device runs the Mac OS. This is a major constraint, since few third-party application vendors (e.g., Good Technologies for a push e-mail client) run on the Mac. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Will these vendors port to a proprietary operating system when they have the option of running on Symbian with far more devices, or Palm OS or Windows Mobile? And will the iPhone support J2ME-based applications, of which there are a growing number? Apple can’t afford to build a dead-end system with no ability for users to enhance the device with third-party applications. But Apple will likely have a tough time convincing application vendors to build specialized clients for the iPhone until the volumes are there, and the volumes could be limited by the lack of third-party applications – a Catch 22.
My advice: Unless you are a die-hard Apple fan, wait a few months to see how this all shakes out, especially if you want to use the device as an adjunct to your business. Find out how good a phone it really is and how well it connects to the world you live and work in before spending the high price for what could ultimately become an orphaned, stand-alone music player. An iPod would be a better choice for that, and much cheaper.
Harry says: Gold (A) reasonably suggested that businesses take a wait-and-see attitude on the iPhone; (B) took the notion of the iPhone running OX X too literally, and was overly pessimistic about the chances of developers supporting the iPhone; (C) seemed to assume that the iPhone would be fragile and sync poorly with PCs before there was reason to have an opinion one way or the other. As far as I can see, he hasn’t written about the iPad yet.
Rory Prior, ThinkMac Blog, “Will the iPhone Fail?,” January 12th, 2007:
You see the problem is you’ve got a really expensive phone here which fails to hit its two key demographics for two very different reasons. The first is the teen to early 20s market, these are people who would love an iPhone but can’t afford one. They’re also the people most likely to be stolen away by equally pretty looking phones that do more and cost less (even if they don’t have the elegance or UI glitz). The second is the ‘prosumer’ market (the folks with good jobs in the city who drive BMWs). These people can afford the iPhone, but they’ve already got phones from their employers. These integrate with their various enterprise systems (Exchange, MS Office, IM, etc) and while they might be tempted by an iPhone, the cold hard realities of non-replacable batteries, no 3rd party software, lack of blessing from the IT dept. and the suckiness of onscreen keyboards leave them stuck with their miserable Windows Mobile smartphones. Ironically the same sort of reasons why they’re probably Windows users rather than Mac users.
Without these two key segments of the mobile phone market who the heck is going to buy an iPhone aside from Apple fan boys and gadget geeks? Heck I’m an Apple fan boy and even I don’t think I’d buy an iPhone unless I could install 3rd party apps on it.
The mobile phone market is big enough that Apple can sell enough iPhones for the product not to be Cube style failure, but in its current implementation they can’t hope to do anything more than carve out a tiny portion of the fashion phone market.
Note I say in its current implementation – there are a few fairly basic things Apple could do (and perhaps will) to allow much wider adoption of the iPhone. The most important is not to lock out 3rd party apps, next would be to make the battery replaceable and finally to sell a nice tiny little bluetooth keyboard so that those who are serious about sending emails and messaging on the go aren’t driven insane by the touch screen. Still of all of them I can’t stress enough how important 3rd party apps are. Steve Jobs might not like the idea of you cluttering up his lovely product with your junk, but once you’ve laid down your cash it isn’t his phone any more and you should be able to customise it so it meets your needs. If it really runs OS X it should be robust enough to allow 3rd party software to run on it without one slightly buggy app bringing the phone down.
Harry says: I think Prior missed out on the impact that the iPhone’s Safari Web browser would have. He was right that third-party apps would be essential, and wrong about the keyboard and battery issues. As for the iPad, he’s taking the reasonable stance that it has plenty of potential but needs apps written to take advantage of its capabilities.