Archive for June, 2007

Today is THE Day! What does the iPhone Launch Really Mean?

June 29, 2007

Tonight June 28, 2007 is a special night. I guess we can call it iPhone minus one, because tomorrow after months of hype and often brilliant word of mouth buzz marketing, tomorrow IT is here. No, you don’t need to listen to me talk about that… this product is one of the most highly anticipated product releases since… since Playstation 3 maybe???, or how about VISTA? OK, I know what you might be thinking, is different, this is IT!

I probably agree, but the big ? is why? After all the iPhone is just a, phone isn’t it? If you read all the pundits from Gartner to the Wall Street Journal, proclaiming this is great or this is just another what I would call “thing du jour” it is easy to get confused, so let’s see if I can help clarify for you with a marketing 2.0 win perspective.

First off, I have to tell you, I ain’t buying one myself although I am tempted There are two reasons for this. 1. I am not on ATT and I have no stomach to switch, or have another phone. I need one phone, but two? and I don’t feel like paying a $200 penalty to Sprint to cancel and switch. And since I can’t just get it as an iPod or web device without the phone service?,  I am not interested at this time. So yes, I guess these silly penalties are a barrier to most of us, aren’t they? And 2. since the phone on the 2G Edge network, which is, for web purposes, slow as molasses, maybe I will just wait.

Do I sound like a guy looking for excuses not to be an early adopter? I guess you are right.

So, saying all this, I will go out on a limb and tell you I think from a 2.0 perspective, this thing is going to big, really big. They are coming at this from marketing strength that can’t and I believe won’t be denied.

Apple has gone on the record to state that their goal is to sell 10 million units by the end of 2008. Some pundits say this is impossible, others say no problem. I am with the no problem camp. In fact, if they follow the iPod playback and offer over time a variety of configurations, 10 million or 1% out the total phone market of 1 billion + is modest.

Here is our rationale. This device is more than a phone.

First, it is an iPod, a new iPod with a touch pad… “the best iPod we’eve ever made” said Steve Jobs when he launched it this in, can you believe this past January? And if you have heard the iPod Time and Space podcast here at Marketing 2.0, you know what that means. Even though we can’t buy the iPhone as an iPod yet (might the next generation iPod with a touch screen version be coming out soon?), one pillar of iPhone is the iPod, which with over 100 million sold, is the undisputed leading portable music player in the world. Think about it, wouldn’t it be nice to launch something new, something perhaps disruptive and facing the infamous Chasm as made famous by Geoffrey Moore, while one big piece of it is still at the top of its game, as the iPod is? Not bad.

You can see this play out every day in the phone business. Ever since Job’s announcement, we have seen every other phone maker weigh in with their new “smart” phone or music phone, all to lackluster response. Is it because Apple sucked up all the buzz? Perhaps? To me, its not they sucked up all the buzz, it is because no other phone will have an iPod.

On the phone front, which is the second pillar of this device. It has some cool features. The ability to sort through voice mail messages, I love it. But these are only features. What is underneath the features that is worth note, is what Apple is all about. The thing is gorgeous, it is cool and unless there is a huge mess up, it is simple, relatively speaking, easy to use, something which even my simple straight ahead Katana is not.  In other words for the first time, there will be a phone that we can figure out how to use.

Lastly, I was concerned about the web browser, something I am personally interested in. The iPhone is supposed to offer us a fully functional Safari browser, but really, on such a small screen? And once again, here we go, on 2G, how good is that? Well at least if the Mossberg’s of the world have it right, yes on 2G it is dreadfully slow, but on WiFi, it rocks! And the browser is the real thing.

Now I will add in a couple of more things, they may not be here now, but since once again as Job’s said, “we are really a software company!”, what happens if they can spruce up text messaging? Add in GPS, and voila, localized, rich messages served via phone. Oh la la. And what happens when WiMax really hits…VoIP cell service? ATT may be a different beast then. And the glue that puts it all together, the iPhone, which is designed, as far as I can see, not as a super “smart” phone really. This is a people’s phone, a phone for anyone to use and enjoy.

So what does this mean, at least as far as Apple’s story goes. In 1984 Apple created the Mac, but the real show for computers was in business, where IBM and WinTel put it all together to rule the roost. Apple in that world was in the end marginal at best. I just read yesterday that Gartner reported that the iPhone would be rejected by business… it doesn’t fit in, and it hasn’t offered the security and other assurances business needs to adopt.

I will argue, in this one, so what? The smart phone is marginal, the iPhone is another market, hitting the sweetspot of the mass market and I will assume finally makes the cell phone usable and fun, and yes… beautiful, simple and cool. At that point the iPod may be ready to make it into business, and give a run to Blackberry’s, but it’s success at that point will be undeniable.

The iPod is the anchor, and its success has been phenomenal. The iPhone goes to the next level and if I read the tea leaves correctly, will not only open the door to conquest on the mass market scale, I will argue on a larger scale than even that of the iPod. Plus the new functionality will add new life to the next generation of iPods, which I will bet can’t be that far away… at least I hope not!