“The hype is reaching fever-pitch, and the odds are still stacked that Apple will announce a device combining the functionality of an iPod and a mobile phone in January next year, but whether such a device will actually sell is another question,” Bill Ray writes for The Register.

Ray writes, “There seems little question that an Apple phone product will be launched in 2007, and that it will work with the iTunes service and have a very pretty industrial design and a smooth interface. Strapping an iPod to a mobile phone is not a great technical challenge, which makes it all the more remarkable that Motorola did it so badly with their ROKR handset. Maintaining the features which made the iPod so popular in a mobile phone will be much more of a challenge.”

Ray writes, “The iPod brought with it amazing industrial design, a well designed interface, and a new usage paradigm. Portable music players already existed, but the iPod was better looking and easier to use. It also came with the promise that you didn’t just carry music with you, you carried all your music with you. That factor alone changed the way portable music was perceived, and was central to the adoption of the iPod.”

“The iPod has moved away from that paradigm, with the Nano and Shuffle only able to store the most diminutive music collection, and recent rumours suggest that an Apple phone will have 8GB of flash-based storage; comparable with the Nano. But it was that function which sold the concept to many people, with the style and simplicity of use keeping them hooked,” Ray writes.

Ray writes, “It is important not to underestimate the importance of the iPod industrial design, or its scope. I recently had to sit in a pub as two iPod fans reminisced about feelings when opening their first iPod box, and their overwhelming admiration not for the product, but for the box in which it came. It was sickening, but demonstrated the loyalty iPod fans feel, and the expectations that will need to be met.”

MacDailyNews Take: Ray’s use of the adjective “sickening” speaks volumes about his underlying feelings. Just because people like Bill Ray want an Apple product to fail doesn’t mean it will.

Ray continues, “Apple will launch a mobile phone in January, and it will become available during 2007. It will be a lovely bit of kit, a pleasure to behold, and its limited functionality will be easy to access and use. The Apple phone will be exclusive to one of the major networks in each territory and some customers will switch networks just to get it, but not as many as had been hoped. As customers start to realise that the competition offers better functionality at a lower price, by negotiating a better subsidy, sales will stagnate. After a year a new version will be launched, but it will lack the innovation of the first and quickly vanish. The only question remaining is if, when the iPod phone fails, it will take the iPod with it.”

Full article here.
Ray makes a lot of assumptions to arrive at his seemingly deeply-desired failure scenario. What if the “iPhone” is sold simply as iPod – just like the “video” iPod was marketed? Are people going to stop buying iPods just because Apple decides to include phone capability? Of course not. That’s just one possibility. Obviously, it’s far too soon to proclaim Apple’s “iPhone” a success or failure (we’d wait for the actual product/service release, at least), but we’ve iCal’ed Ray’s comments for future reference, that much is sure.

Related articles:
Analyst: Apple iPhone economics aren’t that compelling – December 08, 2006
CNET editor Kanellos: ‘Apple iPhone will largely fail’ – December 07, 2006