Apple has hit a nerve with the iPhone. Not only several billion dollars in additional market cap happened within hours of the announcement as the stock leapt in value, but the meme trackers (Techmeme, Megite, Tailrank) exploded with blog conversations about this device as did the mainstream press. I haven’t seen this level of conversation on these trackers ever before which is both interesting and potentially troubling to Apple…but maybe worth the publicity?
The conversation has shifted….dramatically….and the device has only been in the hands of laughingly few people! The concern is over the closed nature of the device itself (only Apple will approve which apps are loaded on the iPhone), the demands to take down a faux iPhone user interface skin for Windows Mobile and Palm, the iPhone trademark issue (Cisco allegedly has one) and whether it’s actually worth $500.
All of this just makes me chuckle. Even if Apple used all of its cash on hand (more than $9B as of 9/30/06) they couldn’t buy this kind of publicity! Long masters of event marketing, Steve Jobs has often been held up as a model for how to launch products (BusinessWeek, April 2006).
In my view, ONE sentence in that BusinessWeek article above is what EVERYONE is missing: “Steve Jobs does not sell bits of metal; he sells an experience.” THAT is the whole point to everything discussed above: the closed nature to the iPhone; the demands to take down the interface; the trademark issue. It’s all about the experience.
If you think about the iPod innovation it wasn’t just the device itself (which most people focus on when trying to duplicate the iPod success in their own industry) but rather the ENTIRE EXPERIENCE from managing your music on your computer, to buying it online, to subscribing to podcasts (though I think they’ve made it sucky to do so and I’m NOT happy about it) to managing the much-hated Digital Rights Management (DRM) in a fairly decent way so as to make the disrupted music industry reluctantly play ball.
People don’t appreciate how many companies are lined up to crush Apple and ensure the iPhone fails. The mobile telephony companies don’t want Jobs to succeed as it will obviate much of their crappy attempts at video and music downloads; the device manufacturers with weak software on their smartphones now have to play MAJOR LEAGUE catch up; Microsoft and Adobe are obviously troubled since both don’t want to see a mobile device succeed as a gateway since they can’t play; and the ecosystem of developers and sophisticated users (most tech bloggers) who want to maximize the device itself and extend it for fun and profit can’t play either.
But the only way to mainstream sophisticated technology at the level of sophistication like the iPhone is to make the overall experience seamless, easy and fun. It’s what user interface guidelines did in the early Mac…making all applications adhere to certain conventions so users would have a predictable method of working applications (for those of you pre-graphical user interface like me, you can’t imagine what a world where every app “quit” in its own way; printed with obscure commands in every app; and so forth was to a typical user…damn frustrating it was!). It’s what iLife has achieved in spades as normal humans can now edit video, audio, photos and make DVD’s.
The troubling thing for Apple is that there are MONTHS for buzz and opinion to turn negative and pissing off bloggers could turn nasty. That would be bad but again, Apple is hyperfocused on the experience people will have with the iPhone and positive and negative publicity both builds buzz. The interesting thing to observe will be the balancing act Apple takes with keeping momentum building.