The Register’s Ray: Apple ‘iPhone’ will fail

“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

62 Comments

  1. I’ve pointed this out before, so please pardon the redundancy . . . but The Register is a British rag. And for some reason the majority of UK publications are really down on anything Apple. Not sure why, but they are. So take ANYTHING coming from the sceptered isle about the Mac, the iPod, or anything else produced by Jobs and company with the proverbial grain of salt.

  2. Portable music players already existed, but the iPod was better looking and easier to use

    And this is why the new iPhone will be a success! Cell phones are way to difficult to use, poorly designed from a user standpoint, and all the menus are hard to navigate.

    If Apple can produce software for it that is easy to use, even if it has less features, that alone will make it a resounding success.

    ::<magic word = problem>:: as in The problem with most cell phones is they are difficult to use.

  3. MDN Take today:

    …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)…

    Back in 29 September 2006 (6 weeks before Zune released)

    MacDailyNews Take: Even if Zune was beautiful to look at, offered double the capacity of iPod at half the price, and actually offered some compelling feature that the iPod doesn’t have… the Zune cannot win.

    Could someone explain the change in attitudes? Or is there a hint of hypocrisy here. We suffered months of Zune bashing before even seeing the thing.

  4. I believe this is mostly driven by ideology. M$ is OK is in the minds of most British rags because they embody the caricature of a monopolistic, evil, incompetent American corporation. But Apple aims to create products and services that are truly useful, even elegant, for the individual consumer–thus Apple symbolizes the best hopes for a market economy, while M$ symbolizes our worst fears. If Apple is successful, it destroys the British left’s ideological assumptions, while if M$ succeeds, it confirms them.
    That, and the British press likes to build something/someone up, then tear them down–makes for better drama, which they believe sells.
    Cheers!

  5. Revisionist,

    You are aptly named.

    MDN’s SteveJack was quite clear: Apple cannot lose. And Microsoft cannot win. That Microsoft is even trying Zune now only highlights their rampant mismanagement and bad decision-making…

    If Microsoft’s Zune shows any real signs of life — a longshot based on history; Microsoft’s been trying to best iPod for half a decade already — Apple CEO Steve Jobs can simply license FairPlay to Microsoft’s former “partners” at very favorable terms to Apple, as they do face Microsoft’s big scary steamroller. Favorable terms will naturally include dropping “Plays For Sure” Windows Media DRM compatibility and FairPlay exclusivity for an extended period of time.

    People aren’t going to stop buying iPods just because some other lesser companies finally have iTunes-compatible players. Ditto for buying from the iTunes Store. Jobs has to be thanking Microsoft which must be why he goaded them into this Zune nonsense in the first place. After everyone else licenses FairPlay from Apple, then everyone — except Microsoft — will be iPod+iTunes compatible. Game. Set. Match.

    From MDN article: Zune: Apple cannot lose. Microsoft cannot win. (July 26, 2006)

  6. Earlier this year we already knew that the Zune was going to be a modestly-revised Toshiba Gigabeat, did we not? THAT was what we were basing our bashing (!) on, for the product had already been released in one form or another.

    The Gigabeat was an abject failure, the Zune was to be its first cousin . . . where’s the problem slamming it?

  7. I can’t wait for the phone to come out. I’m buying one. I don’t care if I have to change carriers and I don’t care if it plays music or not. I want a phone designed as well as an iPod or a Mac with seamless integration with my computer. A camera would be nice if it will be as good a camera as my Canon, but if not, don’t bother.

  8. conservative and liberal assumptions…

    Libertarians would know better…

    I only said that to make a point.. Idiots who inject politics, especially the asinine bi-partisan politics of the Ununited States, are hte cause of the disunity in this country more than anything else.

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