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Why the iPhone Keynote Was A Mistake 507

Posted by Zonk
from the should-have-worn-a-hat dept.
jcatcw writes "Mike Elgan at Computerworld lists six reasons why it was a mistake to make the iPhone keynote at Macworld. He argues that extremely high expectations can only lead to disappointment for consumers and investors. The focus on the phone during the keynote also took away from the Apple TV announcement, put iPod sales at risk, gave competitors a head start, and (perhaps worst of all) ruined the company's talks with Cisco over the iPhone name. From the article: 'The iPhone, despite its many media-oriented virtues and its sweet design, will do far less than most existing smart phones. The problem Apple now faces because of Jobs' premature detail-oriented announcement is that of dashed expectations. When customers expect more and don't get it, they become dissatisfied.'"
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Why the iPhone Keynote Was A Mistake

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  • Good Point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Greatmoose (896405) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @06:52PM (#17705556) Journal
    I hadn't thought of the iPhone cannibalizing iPod sales. Seems as if they are forcing thier customers to pick on or the other: a lot of features (iPhone) or a lot of storage space (iPod). Perhaps if they offered a much larger capacity iPhone, they wouldn't have that problem. Of course, it'd be $1,000 or something...
  • by gravesb (967413) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @06:52PM (#17705558) Homepage
    All valid points, but it will affect competitors as well. Right now, people in the consumer smart phone market will be at least tempted to hold out and wait for the iPhone. Since those companies are already in the market, and Apple is not, who will it hurt more? Also, I think its good to announce 6 months out, with the 2 year cycle of cell phone plans. This gives consumers enough advanced notice to decide about entering into a new plan now, or just extending their old plan until the iPhone is available.
  • Negotiating Position (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Sunday January 21, 2007 @06:57PM (#17705614) Homepage Journal
    The seemingly obvious explanation is that Steve Jobs needed a better negotiating position for something. So he announces it, gets a major media circus, half a billion eager buyers, Wall Street ready to punish anybody who doesn't jump on this product launch, and then goes back to his negotiating partner with a much stronger position.

    It could be the 3G network - Cringely's written a bit about Cingular insisting on selling its own music store items over 3G, which is why Apple is on EDGE only. Maybe the iPhone trademark... he made a point of boasting about patents (read: patent suit). Maybe something else - I haven't finished watching the whole keynote yet.

    Unappreciated gem from the Keynote - Jobs made the audience a point of showing them pictures of penguins on the iPhone. I don't think anything Jobs does these days is uncalculated. Oh, and Mach/xnu is slow...just sayin'.

  • by Lerc (71477) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @07:05PM (#17705700)
    I was talking to someone pre-iPhone announcement about what cell phones should be.

    One of the key features I wanted. make something that doesn't do all of those things I don't want but does the things I do want well. Phones have been developing crazy unusable features like mad for years.

    Do less but do what you do well.

  • by Vengeance_au (318990) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @07:10PM (#17705748) Homepage Journal
    Compare and contrast
    iPod launch [apple.com] (wiki [wikipedia.org] - little to no pre-publicity
    with the iPhone - where we are seeing every last bit of information from tech specs, usability, form factor down to projected price points. I believe the iPod launch worked because even though there were plenty of detractors [37signals.com], ultimately the device was in peoples hands and proving itself. The pre-launch on the iPhone opens up too much opportunity for competitors to steal ideas and be at market in a similar timeframe, and worse it lets everyone make a decision about the product before they get one in their hands - which is ultimately where hearts and minds are won.
    I believe apple makes some of the most user friendly devices around, and they should focus on getting them out to market (and THEN hyping the mother-loving goodness out of them).
  • Why will the iPhone (rev 1) suck?

    Simple. It's an EDGE "smartphone". And you have to deal with AT&T come Cingular. And you have to pay $$$, in addition to signing a 2 year contract.

    I must admit, I'm very attracted to the idea of an Apple phone; but EDGE really sucks, and AT&T sucks worse. Once you've gone EVDO, HSDPA, or even UMTS, you'll never go back to EDGE/GPRS. It's a gigantic step backwards, and considering that Verizon/Sprint now have an additional 6 months to pursue a high-end smart phone, I would be shocked to see the iPhone succeed in any big way.

    Certainly a phone utilizing yesterday's data technology will not muscle it's way to the top of the market. No video downloads over EDGE, and audio downloads will pause while you are speaking on the phone. Furthermore, it doesn't even seem that it will have a J2ME stack.

    I don't have high hopes for this phone, and I'll be damned if I have to deal with AT&T to get one.
  • Re:6 months! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2007 @08:05PM (#17706140)
    My contract with Verizon expires in May. I'm going to use the iPhone launch to get the sweetest deal possible out of those guys when I renew.

    Yes I'm a coward. Who isn't afraid of what the Apple fanboys can do to their karma?
  • by William_Lee (834197) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @08:22PM (#17706262)
    "He argues that extremely high expectations can only lead to disappointment for consumers and investors." In that case they shouldn't ever announce any cool products ever again. Seriously, what kind of logic is that? Apple makes cool things so people put unrealistic expectations on them. People do the same thing with Google, but Google still releases new services. The new stuff might not match the hype but Google and Apple can't change how much people obsess about them.

    Apple is a public corporation and as such is supposed to put their shareholders first. Jobs announced an actual penetration target for the iPhone that some Wall Street analysts and investors are likely to take as gospel. The stock now has a lot of expectations baked into it. If Apple doesn't succeed wildly with the iPhone, the stock is likely to be punished severely as a result. The target is very aggressive based on pricepoint, lack of features, and Cingulair only distribution.

    That's why it's not a good idea to set up such an aggressive target. In terms of Wall Street, they're better off under promising, and over delivering. Time will tell, but I think the article makes a lot of interesting, well thought out, and potentially valid points.
  • Re:6 months! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CleverBoy (801540) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @08:40PM (#17706384) Homepage
    The announcement was fine. Given the breath of reports on this phone (competing phones, trademark disputes, other), to NOT make an announcement is to simply NOT CONTROL the perception of the news when it breaks. Seriously. I can respect that the author of this article sees problems with the announcement, but the benefits FAR outweigh the detriment. To miss that is to miss the point.

    1. Cingular gets to gauge consumer interest
    2. Customers can plan accordingly with respects to their phone agreements (big point)
    3. Customers can plan accordingly with respects to their savings (medium point)
    4. They answer HIGH expectations around a new iPod release (big criticism)
    5. Accessory makers have 6 months to plan (avoiding the criticised "shock" effect)
    6. Customers can educate themselves about product expectations

    --And the list goes on. Wait until the phone comes out before prenouncing "what went wrong", especially if there's no indication that anything isn't going according to plan. 6 months is a long time. We're still in month 1. There'll be plenty of time to second guess this month 3-4 months from now.
  • Re:As Jobs Said... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2007 @08:47PM (#17706424)
    who the hell mods this informative?

    yea, nobody uses outlook.

    and then he starts his conclusion with a concession, so that he could wrap it up with a real whopper:

    it is still MUCH better than any other phone available in the US to date

    as an anecdote, this would be suspect, but he doesn't even own the damn thing. (not to mention he doesn't own all the phones available to date in the US, to draw some kind of meaningful comparison)

  • by VirusEqualsVeryYes (981719) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @09:38PM (#17706712)
    Google and Apple can't change how much people obsess about them.
    Nor would they want to. The perpetual, intense attention given to Apple's products, while it might annoy us who regularly pay attention to this stuff, has the very beneficial side effect of spreading the word to many other people that would otherwise be ignorant of their existence. More people hear about it, more people buy it. Simple.

    Do the outrageous expectations hurt sales from those of us who may get annoyed with the constant attention? Not likely. I don't think too many people will decide not to buy an iPhone simply because of the obsession of fanboys. The people whining about and pointing fingers at the fanboys probably resolved not to buy one right from the get-go anyway. The rest of us cheerfully ignore the hype, and I suspect a lot of us will buy the iPhone regardless.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @09:40PM (#17706726)
    Simple. It's an EDGE "smartphone".

    Wrong. It's a WiFi PDA, that also happens to be able to make use of the most widely deployed data network in the US as well in-between deep WiFi data pools.

    That's why no-one understands why it's going to be a success, because they don't understand that finally someone has done a followup to the Palm Pilot, adding cell phone ablities, that people would want to actually buy.

    Those of use who liked Graffiti, those of us who dispaired when so much of a Palm form factor was sucked up by a keyboard on the Treo and so many other "smartphones" and pagers - we have been waiting, and are ready for the true next generation Palm Pilot - even if someone else other than Palm had to build it. The people who really want an iPhone are not really Apple fanatics at all, we are exiled Palm fans!
  • Re:still (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) * on Sunday January 21, 2007 @09:42PM (#17706744) Homepage Journal

    I think the FCC argument is dubious, to be honest.

    Apple needed to have their device approved by the FCC, who'd have made some details of the device public. However, Apple could have had a third party (for example, their manufacturer - Apple doesn't generally make their own products) enter the product, and from the point of view of people watching the FCC lists, all they'd have seen would have been a stylish touchscreen camera phone with EDGE and 802.11, coming from Hon Hai, a company not immediately associated with Apple. Even if people put the pieces together and assumed Apple was involved, the FCC would have published no details of the software, which arguably is the most important aspect of the iPhone concept, and the part Apple needed to keep secret.

    Here's what I think. I think Steve Jobs got very excited about a product, far more so than he normally does, and felt MacWorld was the opportunity to reveal it. It's that simple. I think Jobs, in common with much of the media, has overblown the importance of the Apple communicator. It's an original machine, but then original phones come out every year. It's not innovative, in that it will not introduce a technology to a mass audience (the definition of innovative, which is not a synonym for inventive), it's too expensive for that, but it may end up influencing many devices to come. But ultimately, it's a very large phone that, nonetheless, has many nice features but none that the majority of people will see as worth the price tag and Cingular handcuffs, and it'll be relegated to the designer product niche.

    Meanwhile someone will popularize the genuine advantages. They'll not produce a product that's as desirable, but it'll be "good enough" and much cheaper and more accessable, just as Microsoft/Commodore/Atari and Palm did to Macintosh and Newton respectively.

    But I'm getting off the subject. The point is that Jobs became convinced that this was an important product. That's why it was presented at MacWorld. Not because of the FCC, not because of a lack of other products, but Jobs being overwhelmed with excitement.

  • Re:6 months! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @11:36PM (#17707396) Homepage Journal
    ""Plan accordingly" and "Educate themselves" are the last thing the average Joe Sixpack does in this society. The sheer number of idiots I deal with on a daily basis asking questions like, "Xbox games work on the PlayStation, right?" proves to me that planning and education are far down the list of consumer priorities. "Get eyebrows waxed" has higher priority to todays consumer!"

    Largely.....I agree with you.

    However, I think the consumer that can easily afford an iPhone would be a slightly different case. Those can can easily afford it will get it immediately, those that are on the cusp of affording it easily, will plan ahead so they can get one when it comes out, or shortly thereafter.

    Most every conversation I've had with people that are interested in getting an iPhone mention right off to bat 'how much longer their current contract with x phone company will last before they can switch to Cingular so they can get an iPhone.'

  • Speak for yourself (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SaDan (81097) on Sunday January 21, 2007 @11:58PM (#17707510) Homepage
    Long time Palm user, current Treo 700p owner.

    The iPhone is not a PDA, it's an iPod with a phone and contact list integrated into it. There are no business applications, and until I see an ssh client and can test how well it works with that icky looking touch keyboard, it's just a toy to me.

    I really hope the iPhone ends up with the applications it needs to take on business users as well as consumers with money to burn. Right now it really doesn't make me want to give up my Treo, let alone switch to a crappy cellular service provider.
  • Reality check (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Monday January 22, 2007 @12:12AM (#17707586)
    > You have forgotten, that is exactly what the iPod entered into as well. A market that was fairly far along, with
    > a lot of products that offered more features than the iPod.

    Your memory has been rewritten by the Reality Distortion Field. Allow me to correct it.

    When the iPod first appeared the MP3 player market was filled with half finished devices from a slew of asian third tier houses, Creative and Rio being the only ones with ANY name recognition and their stuff was about as bad as the generic stuff from China. Players came in two flavors, flash based units with too little space to be useful and big bulky players with laptop drives and lithium ion batteries. If you could find any music outside the warez scene it was from pathetic selections with the DRM flavor of the month. So unless you were computer literate enough to rip your own CD collection you had to be a warez trader. Combine all this and the IT crowd and hardcore music freak cap was buying in but it wasn't mainstream.

    Then Apple introduced the iPod with the 1.8" drive, polished firmware, iTunes and the iTunes store and a slick marketing campaign and made portable music players a mainstream piece of consumer electronics. Yes others now offer players that work fairly sanely, everyone has a fairly level playing field in available components. Yes the DRM lock between iTunes Store and iPod is a terrible trap but 99% of their customers ain't bright enough to see it. Remember, they are selling to the massmarket consumer electronics market and diehard Mac faithful, neither are known for critical thinking.

    The problem is their competitors are still selling mp3 players into a market looking for iPods. By essentially creating the market they defined it. For now. Sandisk looks like they are figuring out how to move units, others will follow. Eventually even Microsoft will figure out how to make a device people might want. :) Five years from now Apple will be a third of unit sales at best, slowily sliding into their traditional Apple is entering into a field just as barren as the MP3 field was, in terms of user interaction with the device and integraton with computers.

    No, not quite. There are lots of good smartphones out there, judged by the only metric that counts, market penetration. When iPod appeared mp3 players were in less than a percent of the population's hot little hands, smartphones are already over that mark. And remember Apple isn't going to be able to have it's way with this market, the carriers rule their roost and aren't likely to be dumb enough to hand all of the profit centers over to Steve on a silver platter.
  • Re:still (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dagamer34 (1012833) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:22AM (#17707940)
    Like the GP said, the most important part of the iPhone doesn't come from hardware, but instead software. They could have held back on that part and still had something to show in June.
  • Re:6 months! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:01AM (#17708072)
    "".. the average Joe Sixpack .."

    Which, BTW, is NOT the target market. Not to mention the fact that Joe Sixpack also tends not to be an early adopter."


    Stop kidding yourselves, Apple products are largely targetted at Joe Sixpack.
    If they targetted the geek/hardcore market segment Apple would die in a fucking heartbeat.

    DRM, no OGG, no FLAC, high pricetag? iPod, sign me up!

    Proprietary OS, no third party applications, expensive iPhone, sign me up!

    Proprietary hardware, vendor lock-in, pretty white casing, woo!! macbook pro! I want in now!!

    Most of us know better than to buy this crap, well with the exception of some of you metrosexual posers.

  • by rednip (186217) * <[rednip] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:17AM (#17708324) Journal

    I try not to feel that my own tastes are particularly meritorious or cool or particularly important for anyone besides myself, but it's hard not to attach your ego to something you work hard at (like being an opera singer in my case).

    I'm happy for you that you have the dedication and natural talent for such an honorable vocation, but what did you work hard at? Perhaps you mean your comment itself? Hey, it's Slashdot, most of the time we reply to comments not to give a rub on the tummy to the parent poster, but to counter facts, press for more information, or give a little push where we (at least at posting time) believe a little ribbing is justified. Sometimes we go farther than that, which is only occasionally justified. You decided to overly broaden your comment to include discussion on your opinion on your 'pop culture' preferences.

    Seriously, though, I think it's the whole concept of "cool" and self-promotion that's causing so many problems when we try to have this kind of dialogue.
    [selected quote from your dialogue...]

    Most of the people out there with iPods probably think Family Guy is hilarious (and original!), and wouldn't get half the jokes on South Park, let alone watch C-SPAN for more than 5 minutes. I despise Myspace more than any other currently prevalent cultural phenomenon, though.

    I don't have an iPod, but much like your idea of a typical iPod owner, I don't like to watch 'C-SPAN' (way too boring, but I'm glad it's there), I love the 'Family Guy', and I have a 'My Space' account (in fact I just started it a couple of days ago, nothing lamer than joining something after people start poking at it). However I may redeem myself in your eyes, as there are few jokes on 'South Park' I don't get (and usually before the punch line), but then again I can't stand 'The Office' (IMHO the most overrated show on TV).

    [more from your original comment]
    What I see most in popular culture, and I hope this isn't just me - is a lack of originality:...

    Lack of originality is a commonly voiced complaint, implying that you might be the first to notice could likely be called disingenuous. Besides, how is a movie or song remake any different than a new run for an old play, or for that matter an opera. Perhaps it's the 'live' part; like a cover band playing a favorite tune, might be ok, but if they record it and play the song on the radio it's not? I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with your rules, so I'm just guessing.

    Likely you'll learn over time that people like, what people like, sometimes you'll agree with them, and other time you will wonder why. If you are able to figure out why something is popular, and are able to appreciate their point of view, if not their opinion, you will have a better understanding of humanity, and that's 'a good thing'.

  • by clonmult (586283) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:12AM (#17708740)
    With respect to the browser. What a load of rubbish.

    The current range of Nokia S60 phones (N73, N80, N93, etc.) have a similarly fully featured browser. Works absolutely perfectly. Why bother with the mobile gmail client when I can go straight into the main gmail web page? The web works incredibly well on these phones.

    So Nokia already have the whole of the web in your pocket. With 3G data access speeds to boot.

    Turning down music playback whilst in a call? Thats new? My Siemens SX1 had that years back. My little old SE W550 did exactly that.

    Nokia and SE have been doing such things for years.

    And its a minor thing, but for those interested (and with N80s, or other WiFi nokias), you can get a BitTorrent client for these phones. Kinda useless, but still pretty cool.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:48AM (#17708844) Journal
    You don't understand the media "pundits", grasshopper. Their job is solely to sound all smart and knowledgeable, make all sorts of comments on a know-it-all tone, make some wild predictions and take credit only for the ones that come true.

    E.g., if you predicted that Apple will make a PDA... some 5 years ago, do take the iPhone as confirmation that you're smart and predict stuff like the Oracle of Delphi. If you predicted that Intel will buy Apple (don't laugh, one idiot predicted just that), well, carry on as if that never happened.

    And most of all, never forget the first rule for prophecies: give them an event _or_ give them a date, but never both.

    E.g., if you predicted that someone will die of a heart attack (the event), don't tell them when, so you can still take credit for it 50 years later... when they're run over by a truck. Ok, tech ragazines and pundits predict about technology, not people, but the same metaphor applies verbatim. If you predicted in the 80's that the Mac will die because noone wants a graphics interface, feel free to act as if you were right all along when the slump happened at the end of the 90's, for completely different reasons. If you predicted that nVidia would buy ATI, feel free to act like you told everyone so when they get bought by AMD half a decade later.

    E.g., conversely if you predicted that something will happen in 6 months, don't tell them exactly what. As a practical example: in this case we know when the iPhone will actually hit the shelves, so this guy has the date set for him. So all that's left is to make some vague comments and avoid anything quantifiable or falsifiable. No matter how many iPhones will actually sell, he can still pretend that his prophecy was right and Apple would have sold more without a pre-announce.

    And again, be sure to sound like you're smart, knowledgeable, and can play Sherlock Holmes and pick the hints that everyone else missed. That's the stuff that sells ragazines. The more cryptic, far-fetched and conspiracy-theory-like it sounds, the more Joe Sixpack loves it. It makes him feel like he's learned some fantastic thing about technology and the technology companies. He suddenly feels like he's in the loop. He's suddenly no longer some frustrated guy sitting on the sideline, not knowing what happens and when will they finally ship a keyboard with an "ANY" key.

    And the journals love it because it gets Joe Sixpack to read them or browse their ad-ladden website.

    That's, in a nutshell, how all the Cringelys and Dvoraks and other bullshitters in tech journalism stay in business.

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