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. Hmmm, Apple sells an “unlocked” iPhone able to work across all major carriers. Market it as a new member to the iPod family. Price it not to far north of the iPod Nano with comparable storage capacity. Sounds like Apple to me. Only they’ll probably update the iPod at the same time, to tie the two together as much as possible. Talk about shaking up yet another industry.

  2. Does anyone, other than Apple Bashers, really believe Apple will make all the half-assed mistakes M$ always seems to make when introducing a new product? An Apple-to-be-renamed “iPhone” might not be a success to the extent iPod is, but it almost surely will not be compared to competitors that offer “better functionality at a lower price.”

    You don’t have to be an Apple fanboy to know Apple screws up much less often than M$, and with all the negative press M$ has gotten for the Zune and Vista, it would be mind boggling to think Apple would make all of the same mistakes.

  3. uhhh… : I’m not sure about TowerTone, but I wasn’t making my judgment on a political stand. I’m saying Ray’s assumptions are consertively made. I’m guessing that TowerTone was saying that Ray took a lot of liberities with making his assumptions.

  4. “You don’t have to be an Apple fanboy to know Apple screws up much less often than M$, “

    Sure, Apple never fail. Apple has been involved in developing no less than 20 different operating system projects. After many dismal failures, they eventually gave up on the idea of trying to develop their own operating systems and finally achieving stability using an OS developed by other people.

    Look down the list below and see how many Apple OS projects actually saw the light of day, and how many of those we commercial successes.

    Apple DOS
    Apple SOS
    Apple ProDOS
    Lisa OS
    Mac System Software
    System 2-6
    System 7-9
    GS-OS
    A/UX
    Netware for Mac
    Apple Network Server
    Star Trek
    Raptor
    NuKernel
    TalOS
    Copeland
    Gershwin
    NextStep
    Rhapsody
    Mac OS X

  5. It’s all hype and no facts so saying that the iPhone or whatever it is will fail is premature and stupid. We all have to wait for MacWorld and find out what this really is and what it can really do.
    Making judgements now is rediculous without the facts.

  6. How many:

    Better read what I said again. I didn’t say Apple doesn’t make mistakes,or have failed projects, I said, “Apple screws up much less often than M$”. That statement is absolutely unassailable. Maybe next time you should read before you type a snappy response.

  7. I haven’t found any general trend toward Apple-bashing among British publications. It seems that the Register in particular is heavily influenced by Andrew Orlowski, who appears to have some kind of personal grudge against Steve Jobs. (Either that, or he’s just a larval Dvorak wannabe who’s realized that bashing Apple gets page-hits.)

    -jcr

  8. Ray remembers me a meeting with one of my clients (a tow and crane company), where a salesman of that company (yes, a salesman of them) defended to buy PCs and I, as their consultant, defended Macs (they already had 95% of their computers being Macs).

    He made a comparison table with lots of stupid arguments, one of them was “Networking”. In the Mac column he stated a “con” because “We don’t know if, in the future, Macs will have the same kind of conectivity as PCs does, even in our LAN or the internet”.

    He just want one of his friends to sell generic PCs; he will receive a compensation. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”gulp” style=”border:0;” />

    MW = ‘little’ as in shame.

  9. I have found that most people don’t want most of the features that many of the phones offer. They want a phone that can make and receive calls, keep a contact list, and perhaps a camera. And they want an iPod. Put them both together and it’s one less thing to carry. These things will sell like crazy. And, I agree, I think they will sell it not as a phone, but as an iPod that has video and phone capabilities.

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