mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, March 30, 2007

If Dvorak says the iPhone will flop, you may want to buy Apple stock...

I've ranted in the past about John Dvorak columns, most recently here. But I recently stumbled, posted on a message board I frequent, another one of his amazingly stupid columns here which predicts that the Apple iPhone will be a flop.

And if Dvorak says it will flop, that means it will probably be an unqualified sucess.

Now, honestly, I have mixed feelings on the iPhone. From what I've seen, it's got an amazing interface, some very cool features (Safari, Visual Voicemail), a ton of built-in music sofware, and integration with iTunes and the iTunes music store, the most popular online music store.

Working against it is the fact that it's only available on Cingular, the fact that it's damn expensive ($599), that it may be fragile, and that some people may not want to use a $600 device for the things they use an mp3 player for, like going to the gym. I think the Cingular tie-in may hurt it the most - lots of people are locked into other carriers via contracts, and can't switch, even if they have a positive perception of Cingular (I really don't - I had them briefly in college after my Cellular One account got absorbed into them, and was less than impressed). The other thing is that lots of those smartphones (including the Nextel Blackberry 7520 currently clipped to my pocket) are paid for by employers. Employers are unwilling to spend $600 on a device for employees, especially when it's 1)made by Apple and 2)when most of the features that make it expensive are entertainment-oriented and not work-oriented. It also lacks the managment ease of having a BEZ server the way Blackberry does.

So I doubt it will be the next iPod, but I think it's got enough going for it that it won't be the next Rockr or Newton either. And Apple has done a decent job of taking some of their failed products or concepts and reworking them to become useful - the G4 Cube was a flop, but not the Mac Mini, the original iPod only held 5 gigs, hooked up firewire, and only worked with Macs, and Apple had dabbled in set-top boxes for years before AppleTV.

But my biggest gripe about Dvorak's column is that he chalks up the sucess of the iPod to marketing hype and the Apple brand name. He's correct that pre-Apple, the MP3 player indusry was a bunch of no-name players. Heck, I had one of them in college - a Digisette or something that I bought for $30 off uBid. It's 32mb of memory held about 6 songs - 7 if they were short. But the iPod was also innovative not just because it was from a recognizable brand, but because it was a good compromise between size and capacity - it used a microdrive, a small hard drive, when other MP3 players were either flash (and thus held few songs) or used laptop hard drives (and thus were big and bulky). The iPod also had a really good interface. And it didn't really take off until the third generation, when Apple finally launched iTunes software for Windows - before that, Windows iPods used MusicMatch, which sucked.

So if the iPhone is a sucess, I think it will be because of it's features, and not because of the hype (although the hype will help). And if it's not, I think Apple will go back and fix it until it is.


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