10 years on, proof that Steve Jobs was right, Steve Ballmer wrong and that most experts have no idea what they’re calling about
Sometimes, the mainstream media isn’t capable of Thinking Different.
Apple is planning to launch new iPhones during an event at its new spaceship campus Tuesday, with a high-end, $1,000-plus device expected to be announced by Tim Cook and his executive team. Leaks have revealed that the gadget will be called the iPhone X and that it’ll sport some form of facial recognition software and a new design, among other features. The highly desirable Christmas stocking stuffer will surely excite Apple’s most hardcore fans, many fed up by how recent iPhone updates have been incremental rather than revolutionary. It’ll also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, which was unveiled by the late Steve Jobs at the Macworld conference in 2007.
A decade on and with smartphones in almost every palm, it’s easy to forget the impact of what was affectionately termed the ‘Jesus Phone’ by fans Sure, it didn’t have MMS, video recording capacity or even 3G data, but almost every smartphone today pays homage in some form or another to the first iteration of Jobs’ brainchild. Some of the early iPhone reviews got it right, with the Wall Street Journal calling it a “breakthrough handheld computer…simply beautiful and a “whole new experience and a pleasure to use.”
Hindsight is 20/20, but most of the crystal ball gazers just didn’t get it. Then-Microsoft head Steve Ballmer famously predicted that there was “no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” and that iOS would end up on maybe two to three percent of smartphones. Thanks to its huge profit margin, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant actually takes home 80% of all smartphone profits.
Here, a few other predictions about the original iPhone worth a chuckle in 2017.
1. That users would miss a physical, Blackberry-esque keyboard. In an otherwise positive review, USA Today noted that “finger-tapping takes getting used to. Best advice: Start typing with one finger before graduating to two thumbs.” Today, BlackBerry is a mere software company whose phones are produced by a Chinese licensee. And we still don’t know anyone under 50 who types with two thumbs.
2. That customers would always want a flip phone. “The big competitors in the mobile-phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. won’t be whispering nervously into their clamshells over a new threat to their business,” wrote Matthew Lynn in Bloomberg News, adding that the iPhone was a luxury bauble. In 2017, the flip phone is obsolete, Motorola’s mobile assets are a subsidiary of Google and Nokia’s phones are made by a Taiwanese manufacturer.
3. That people don’t want a “convergence device.” Jobs introduced the iPhone as a mix of a web browser, music player and phone, but research done at that time suggested that most customers wanted separate devices. The iPhone “will struggle to break into the mainstream because of…low demand for converged devices,” wrote the Guardian of London in a story headlined “iPhone set to struggle.” “Apple’s iPhone combines a phone, music and video player with web and email capabilities, but researchers found demand for these converged devices was lowest in affluent countries.”
“There are several versions of Mp3 player phones out there and none of them are big sellers,” said hedge funder Todd Sullivan in a Seeking Alpha article titled “Apple’s First Flop.” “The market does not want them together. I do not want to have to turn off my music to get a phone call… Why would I pay $600 for this, or, buy an iPod in addition to this, in order to avoid the hassle?” Today, iPod revenue is such a fraction of Apple’s bottom line that the company doesn’t even break out individual numbers. And dedicated MP3 players are a thing of the distant past.
4. That the iPhone wouldn’t sell. Ad agency Universal McCann called Apple’s aim of selling 10 million iPhones by 2008 “too ambitious,” while columnist John Dvorak lamented the “pathetic” hype and advised Apple to can the product to preserve its reputation as an innovator.
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