Tuesday, 31 July 2007

iPhone: so what is success?

I think it would be possible to write a book - or several books - on the iPhone by now. Certainly, there are some important facets of the iPhone story: from the fantastic PR around the launch, to the way that Apple have operators on at least two continents clambouring for the opportunity to sell the device (I still like this Open Gardens blog on this particular topic), to the innovation in the UI design.

Regarding the PR, I think that there are already ample lessons to learn from the Apple machinery from previous launches. But on the last two points around the operator influence and the UI, I think the iPhone will be credited in time with a significant shift in strategies for the major players in the industry though it may not be the biggest beneficiary of this itself.

I have had a play with the iPhone - it's nice and it draws admiring glances and in time, if I were committed to it, I could probably migrate to it from my existing handset (as long as it integrates easily with my Outlook) which is a good sign as I am notoriously fussy. But, I do wonder if it will be a commercial success in its own right, right now.

This blog from Mobile Opportunity outlines the mismatch in statistics from AT&T stating that 146,000 have been enabled and Apple reporting 270,000 subscribers. Now, even allowing for a number of people without i-Tunes accounts saddled with a device they cannot work out how to use, it seems that Apple has left AT&T with a nice working capital management problem. But am I the only one that thinks that this number is not that great?

I think back to the V3 and how that took off - a triumph of style over substance if ever there was one - which gradually became more and more pervasive as it penetrated from the board room into the classroom. Everyone clamoured for it immediately - not just the geeks.

I also recently look back to the N95 which achieved a significant early adopter following and was pushed heavily by a number of network operators.

Both devices exceed the early take-up of the iPhone. From a volume perspective, I'll keep my eyes open but Apple might find that its reliance on deep network integration and its assumption that people want to use their phones for more than voice and messaging limits its commercial success.

Nonetheless, I do believe that the iPhone will create a shift in favour of the user by giving device OEMs the confidence to take control again for solving user interace issues and encouraging them to take riskier UI strategies. I very much look forward to the operator roadmaps for 2008. The GSM show in Barcelona next year should give the manufacturers plenty of time to have given an immediate response and also deep seat the response to the iPhone in the roadmap DNA going forward.

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