Business prof: Apple has year or two before Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, LG or Samsung catch iPhone

Nokia has failed “to have much of an impact in North America, either with the tech industry or with consumers. Lord knows that it’s trying, by moving its CTO to Palo Alto. It’s also clear that Nokia as the most aggressive US university outreach program of any mobile phone company, with multi-man year efforts at Stanford, UCLA and MIT. But its handset share and mindshare are almost off the radar,” Joel West, associate professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Department of Organization and Management in the College of Business at San José State University, writes for Seeking Alpha.

“Nokia (and with it Symbian) so far has lost in the US market, including the high-end smartphone market that they dominate in the global market,” West writes. “The iPhone and Blackberry are winners and Nokia is an also-ran. The question that the Europeans (and Japanese and Koreans) are asking is: so what?”

“The ‘so what’ is that before the iPhone, efforts to kickstart the mobile Internet have largely failed, at least in the developed countries. Operators and manufacturers come up with all sorts of technologies and businesses but they’re not getting adopted,” West writes. “The iPhone is getting used and is getting the mobile Internet adopted. It’s also winning the hearts and minds of third party software and services — both for the cool factor, but also because it has users that will try these technologies. I know both geeks and housewives that swear by it, just as the Mac is gaining share on Windows in the desktop.”

“Most marketing problems have a basis in fact. Successful companies usually assume that marketing problems are because the market isn’t getting their message (NB: Microsoft, Intel) — but often it’s because they’re not listening to the market,” West writes. “Nokia (and its soon-to-be subsidiary Symbian) can continue to shoot at the messenger, or they can respond to the iPhone challenge by making their products easier to use and more compelling.”

West writes, “My hunch is that Apple has at least another year or two before Nokia gets its software act together. (And if Nokia doesn’t, then Microsoft, RIM, LG or Samsung will.) So, as when it faced Windows 95, Apple better have something up its sleeve to further advance innovations when competitors catch up to its first mobile phone act.”

Full article here.

“My hunch is that Apple has at least another year or two before (insert company name) gets its software act together. And if (insert company name here) doesn’t, then Company A, B, C or D will.”

That’s exactly what they said several years ago about iPod. Didn’t happen. It tuns out that Apple had many, many “somethings” up its sleeve.

Apple is not a “regular” company — and it’s a very common mistake to analyze them as if they are — they are an extraordinary company…

…and therefore Apple’s quite difficult to catch. Especially when (insert company names here) are starting several years behind them and there’s no longer an unprepared sugared water salesbozo around to sign away Apple’s company jewels to allow (insert company names here) to “innovate” this time.

The iPhone is great software wrapped in wonderful hardware, and its software is five years ahead of anything else out there. – Apple CEO Steve Jobs, May 30, 2007

We’ve been pushing the state-of-the-art in every facet of design… We’ve been innovating like crazy for the last few years on this and we’ve field for over 200 patents for all of the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them. – Steve Jobs, January 9, 2007

There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote I love: ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it’s been.’ That’s what we try to do at Apple. – Steve Jobs, January 9, 2007

None of the companies that West mentions have both the hardware and software design chops (not to mention iTunes’ App Store) that would be necessary to catch, much less compete with, Apple.


  1. Its funny how these so called “experts” have 100% hind sight and zero foresight. Of course that does not keep them from making guesses that NO one will check a year from now. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    Skate to where the puck WILL BE, not to where it was. OF course, that is much easier if you are the one with the puck and your taking it where you want it to go. LOL ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

    Just a thought.

  2. Whatever the timeframe is, one year, if ever, etc. the point is, Apple has a huge lead in a market that up until now saw a lead of a few weeks or months as huge, due to the fast changing pace in the past. Just the word lead, connotes others will have to play catch up just to “play” in this market with Apple.

  3. If Apple sits still they might, but somehow I do not think Apple will. But what company has figured out that the phenomenon is not simply about style? The have to first stop tryin gto copy the look and start considering how to make user friendly UI’s. Microsoft took a decade to create their first viable GUI when they were given the right to copy by Scully. Can these phone manufacturers that are even further behind than DOS was do it faster? Remember Apple did sit still for Microsoft to catch up, but they have never stood still with Jobs in charge!

  4. It’s obvious why the iPhone has succeded with mobile internet – it didn’t require different versions of sites to actually view them. Other phones failed to make viewing of standard pages a worthwhile experience so no-one used them, since no-one used them site owners didn’t bother to make mobile versions of their sites.

    With the iPhone you can view a regular webpage and have an experience akin to viewing on a desktop computer. Since people are now using the web, site owners are coding versions of their site that take advantage of the iPhone that strip out the appropriate content to offer an experience that is suited to the smaller sized screen of the iPhone. Importantly users have the choice of both the full internet and a small screen optimised version.

    The interesting thing is that even with the iPhone offering the full internet, websites are coding mobile versions with the iPhone in mind – not mobiles – the iPhone. Even if other phones catch up in some fashion, the iPhone will have an advantage in that mobile sites look increasingly like the iPhone interface.

  5. Sure, provided any of those companies learn how to design a decent interface.

    Oh, and if Apple does absolutely NOTHING to develop the iPhone/touch platform in the meantime, like Palm.

  6. Here’s what the competition is up against, time-wise:

    The years of Unix development (unless they start w/Unix)

    + The years of NeXt development

    + The years of OS X development

    + a couple of years of iPhone OS development.

    That’s like starting with town like Canton, Kansas and building it up to match NYC.

  7. His idea would be sound if Apple did like Microsoft and just sat around on their laurels for years and never innovated or improved. Unfortunately for these other companies, Apple isn’t going to just sit idle for the next 1-2 years and allow the others to ever catch up.

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