Friday, January 12, 2007

iPhone take 2

I was going to just reply to the comment Pete left, but it starting getting a little too long so I've posted here instead....

Interesting article. I can certainly see the extra publicity argument, but they could potentially have to fork out an awful lot of money - which could quite easily have been spent promoting the device instead, and would not have pissed off the worlds largest network appliance provider (who you might need in the future).

I really don't buy the 3G argument though. If you're granting exclusivity to a network operator you can pretty much call the shots. Especially for something as eagerly anticipated as the iPhone. I'm sure they could have sorted something out if the iPhone was built with 3G capability.

Without 3G they're also missing out on the massive revenue stream that is iTunes downloads on the go.

I think the problem is that too many people believe Apple have this great vision of the future, when in fact all they're particularly good at is building interfaces. Lisa was revolutionary because of the windows, not what was under the bonnet. The same goes for the iPod (clickwheel, but shoddy battery & lack of features) and there's nothing that differentiates a Mac on a technical level from a PC, they just look prettier and are simpler to use. Don't get me wrong, I'd quite fancy a MacBook Pro but I don't believe they have a vision, they just have lots of great designers.

I think the designers were locked in a room for the last couple of years so don't really get what is going on in the world (3G). They just come up with something pretty but not very functional. Apple make no money off iTunes so crippling their own hardware (and revenues) just to force you to sync your phone with it seems ludicrous. But people will buy it because it's a premium product and uptake of 3G has been so slow that most people will not think they're missing out on anything.

But look at the recent X-Series launch from 3. Now imagine that network service with the iPhone. Now that would be something to get excited about.


Pete said...

Each new iPhone user is a new customer for the iTMS, much as each new ipod customer is. Look at it this way - they're not losing anything by bundling a phone in with their next gen ipod. If it's a success they are going to march straight on and use it to steal a huge chunk of the lucrative music downloads market for themselves. They're not going to let their partner bugger that up for them.

You're missing the point about Apple entirely, by the way. They don't "just build nice interfaces", they're one of the few major companies with the capability to design a combination hardware and software product and not fuck it up royally. I'd give them plenty of credit for innovating over the years, but the main problem with them is that their M.O. is to take beautifully designed products like the ipod and use them strategically to open up other markets - often forcing you to swallow some other bitter pill of theirs, like their itunes DRM. This isn't paranoia, it's what's actually happened with the ipod. They use their design successes to tilt the world in their favour, and if the iphone is a success they'll do it again.

The first few generations of ipods were pure mp3 players and were just miles ahead of everything else on the market. Just because five years later you can buy a cheaper knock off with a built in FM radio and a straightened out touchwheel, it doesn't take away the fact that Apple were the first to crack the hard disk mp3 player market.

Will said...

But again you're assuming that iTunes makes Apple some money, which is a big assumption.

Plenty of other vendors create perfectly happy proprietary hardware and software combos - Cisco for example, or any other major appliance vendor. Apple just happen to sell their products to consumers.

It isn't difficult to get everything to work together without problems if you design and build it all yourself. Fact is because Windows is so 'open' any manufacturer can create hardware for it, which gives consumers greater choice but runs a greater risk of incompatibility issues.

Apple makes money from selling hardware, and that's a fact. iTunes makes people buy iPods, for which they make money. I don't reckon they give a monkeys about DRM - the iPod after all can play mp3s - but the more labels sign up and the more choice available on iTunes, the greater the benefit to Apple from iPod sales.

Anonymous said...

First you buy the 2G iPhone. Then as if by magic, Apple release a 3G version 6 months I think they know the score.

Pete said...

Yeah, well if that itunes slump is real it could well be the itunes DRM coming back to bite Apple in the arse. Karma's a bitch.

Now there are so many ipod clones out there, most people will have run into the restrictions and figured out that an encrypted aac file is a pain in the arse compared to an mp3 or a plain old cd.

The fact Apple happen to sell their products to consumers is a huge difference from Cisco and IT appliance vendors. There just aren't that many companies that can successfully create a new consumer product category. Microsoft can steal products (eg consoles) by building a better one than the original, but they can't get new things right themselves unless they've got something existing to throw money at and copy.

The design of the ipod was not purely supplying a touchwheel interface over someone else's idea, Apple spotted that the laptop hard disk form factor was ideal for an mp3 player and wrapped battery and screen around it to make the smallest device possible. It was a good idea, and they executed it so well they created a new product category and left their competitors standing for several years.