Monday, January 15, 2007

Whither iPhone?

Well, I was pretty wrong on the iPhone.....for now, as it's clearly marketed as a cell phone solution. I'm amazed, though, at how the mass media hasn't yet honed in on the iPhone's wi-fi capability. I don't know when it will happen - either an enterprising hacker will figure out how to put OS X apps on the phone, or Apple will lower their guard, or Apple will take bids from GOOG, Skype, and others to be the exclusive IP calling solution, but you can be sure that people will be using the iPhone for free/inexpensive calls over wifi internet.

All in all, the iPhone looks impressive, and will surely be a success, but I don't see it as revolutionary. As far as I can tell, there are no brand new functions - just evolutions of current functions. Visual voice mail is an evolution, and tv shows and movies on a cell phone are evolutions, but maps on a cell phone? click to call from a webpage? music on a cell phone? pictures on a cell phone? wifi on a cell phone? All of these are already available (though not all in one unit (yet), with the possible exception of the Nokia N95.)

(The auto-shifting screen (vert to horiz) might be revolutionary - anybody else ever have one of those?)

Surprisingly, while initially gushing, the press has started to point out some of the non-revolutionary-ness of the iPhone, like in the title link and these:

Does the iPhone sow seeds of Apple's downfall?

Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move

The real verdict on this Apple initiative will become apparent when we see what else Apple does with this market entry. Will the iPhone be one-size fits all or will 'Lite' versions of the iPhone be introduced to hit different price points and market segments? Will non-cellular versions of the iPhone be offered (either no-radio, or wifi-only?) Will iPhone-like functionality be integrated in laptops and desktops?

If Apple's past is any guide, the answers will be "no," and Apple will be a niche player in high-end smart-phones. Right now, Apple makes basically 3 flavors of desktop computers, and 2 barely-differentiated flavors of laptops (though 3 flavors of iPods isn't so bad). The Steve has frequently compared Apple to BMW- both make premium products in a commoditized market, and both very profitably survive with only 5% of the market. I don't see any reason why the iPhone will be any different, unless Steve has a new vision for the company that he's not divulging. (Yes, dropping "Computer" from the name represents the fact that Apple is broadening in terms of markets, but not necessarily changing their approach.

About a billion handsets were sold last year, and according to one article, only a million of them were smartphones. The iPhone market is really anybody with a phone and an iPod, so that million figure is low, but as great as the iPhone is, there's plenty of reasons for a user to NOT want to combine these features. (Would you rather go jogging with an iPhone or an iPod shuffle?) The iPhone sales goal is 10 million units in the first year, equating to ~5 billion dollars in revenue, which would be a HUGE success. Unlike the articles linked above, I think Apple can achieve that so this critique shouldn't be considered a criticism, but this techno-geek won't be in line for a 20th century iPhone (yes, I mean 20th), instead waiting for perhaps more innovation from v2.0 of the iPhone. (Or preferably, a video iPod with a 3.5", rotating screen.

btw: I WAS right about one thing: no iLife '07 until Leopard is released.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous