How Steve Jobs blew his iPhone keynote: premature announcement hurts Apple

Apple Store“Steve Jobs’ blockbuster keynote address at… Macworld was brilliantly and powerfully delivered — one of his best ever. It was also a colossal mistake,” Mike Elgan writes for Computerworld.

Elgan writes, “The keynote certainly looked familiar — the famous jeans and black turtleneck, the black background and giant screen. But Jobs did something unique with this speech: He announced, in detail, a major new product six months before its expected availability. Apple’s famous formula, successfully applied to dozens of iPod models, Macs and operating system rollouts, keeps details secret until products are ready to ship.”

Elgan writes, “Sure, Jobs did the same thing — sort of — when he preannounced Apple TV back in September. But that speech lacked product details or even the correct brand name. Last week’s iPhone keynote was the first in Apple’s history in which a major new product line was unveiled in detail long before its actual ship date.”

Elgan writes, “I think Jobs blew it. Here are my six reasons why:”

1. Jobs raised buyer expectations too high.
2. Jobs raised Wall Street expectations too high.
3. Jobs gave competitors a head start.
4. Jobs undermined Apple TV hype.
5. Jobs put iPod sales at risk.
6. Jobs wrecked Cisco talks.

“I think Apple’s CEO made a big mistake. A June unveiling that coincided with the actual product launch would have kept customers’ and Wall Street expectations in line; concealed product details from competitors; given Apple TV the full spotlight when it ships; kept iPod sales robust; and helped Apple gracefully negotiate the rights to use the iPhone name. In short, it would have been the traditional Apple home run,” Elgan writes. “Steve Jobs blew it.”

Full article here.
1. Buyer expectations are not too high. Everyone can see the iPhone features online. Everyone knows more, currently unknown features are coming.
2. If anything, Wall Street has so far greatly underestimated iPhone’s impact: Morgan Stanley reiterates Apple ‘buy’ – says market is underestimating iPhone demand – March 01, 2007
3. Job’s gave competitors no head start. He gave them heart attacks. Jobs has all of his patent apps submitted. Competitors would need years to catch up, not a few months.
4. No evidence that Apple TV has been negatively affected. If anything, there is at least some evidence to the contrary:
Deutsche Bank: Apple TV could take 30% of set-top box market within a few years – February 21, 2007
RUMOR: Apple TV sales blowing away Apple’s internal expectations – January 25, 2007
ZDNet’s Graham: Apple TV hits a number of sweet spots, poised to make a big impact – January 25, 2007
5. Not according to channel checks: Briefly: NPD data indicates Apple iPod units tracking above Street – February 28, 2007
6. Who cares? Totally meaningless point by Elgan.

iPhone’s early announcement was necessitated by the need for the long and public FCC approval process. With early announcement, iPhone benefits from months of hype and free publicity. Elgan’s article is meaningless meandering poppycock that ignores reality, offers no final assessment of the supposed negative impact on Apple by pre-announcing iPhone (since there will be no negative impact), and is generally and consistently wrong.


  1. Mr. Elgan clearly did not pay attention during the keynote. Steve Jobs clearly said that cell phones must be certified by the FCC and noted that the certification process is public.

    “Rather than have the FCC pre-announce the phone, we decided to” or words to that effect.

    Remember that we all got a sneak peek at the Zune because of the FCC testing around its Wi-Fi capability.

  2. Plus with the lack of announcements since MacWorld Apple weren’t ready to show other stuff off. iLife 07 and iWork 07 seem to be held back to go out alongside the new version of OS X. Better to keep OS X and the new software hidden away until the Vista hype has blown over and people realise what a disappointment it is. The iPhone announcement also completely overshadowed Cebit and to an extent the Vista launch.

    And as MDN pointed out the FCC would have leaked info. Apple also needs to work closely with networks around the world which is a lot easier if the device isn’t secret.

  3. Thomas – you are absolutely right. This froze everybody’s plans to renew their existing contracts. It would be interesting to hear from anyone in the mobile phone industry if they’ve noticed a drop-off in renwals.

  4. Elgan is absolutely correct when he says Job should of not talked about iphone…His 6 reasons are stupid why?

    1) Buyer expectations were already to high for phone made by Apple.
    2) Wallstreet’s expectations are designed to promote M$ and stifle Apple. So it does not matter, at all, what Waall Street expectations are. In the end Apple outperforms Wall Street highly expert opinions, like always, and Apple stockholders win.
    3) Not true his competitors already have their philosophy of how a hand held smart phone should work. They will only change their form factors and interfaces if the non-vapoware version of the iphone significantly cuts into their sales when it is introduced. They will not react to the vapor ware iphone. They will see how ppl react to using the non-vaporware iphone. The features people like will creep into other maker’s products in a non-patent infringing manner.
    4) I have a Tivo with USB and Ethernet. I have yet to finish yawning over Apple TV. The people who buy Apple TV are a subset of the Cable/Satellite/Tivo savvy market. They were hyped enough at the original anouncement. And they have put their money were their mouth is already.
    5) I think iPod sales are going to be affected when the phone is released. Not before…Then the 6G ipod will take care of that. Remember there are a lot parents out there that WILL give their kids a phoneless iPod for B-days and holidays but do not want open up the smart phone door. Also as long as non-phone ipods have large mobile data storage space at least I will be a two device person.
    6)) Jobs ain’t stupid. He either thought the Cisco talks were already wrecked, they were biding their time to make a cell version of the skyped out iPhone (which would ruin any legal position he would have in the future), or he already knew what they wanted and he was just playing hard ball.

    Just my $0.02

  5. Such a weak and ill-informed article!

    For example, he says the amount of memory isn’t adequate; but he doesn’t mention that smart phones, the competition, have even less.
    Oh no! To ‘prove’ this point he compares it to a 80 GB iPod!

    How do these people get their jobs!

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