Tuesday, January 16, 2007


As I noted the other day, a large part of the media has obediently lined up to proclaim the glories of Apple's "revolutionary" new iPhone. It seems that simply putting an i at the beginning of the name confers the blessing of the zeitgeist. With such an auspicious title, surely the iPhone couldn't flop. It's unsinkable unthinkable!

Or is it? Check out Kirk Sato's 10 reasons IPhone is going to be a Flop. (He also links to a hilarious Stephen Colbert segment.)

A purportedly potent rodent

And another thing: the iPhone has no buttons. Reminds me of another Apple product: the Mighty Mouse, which came with my iMac. The advertising copy is seductive:
Thanks to a smooth top shell with touch-sensitive technology beneath, Mighty Mouse allows you to right click without a right button. Capacitive sensors under Mighty Mouse’s seamless top shell detect where your fingers are and predict your clicking intentions, so you don’t need two buttons — just two fingers.
A smooth shill for a smooth shell. But--gasp!--Apple doesn't always get things right. For a more reality-based assessment of the purportedly potent rodent, check out the Wikipedia entry. The "Criticisms" section lists quite a number of purported shortcomings. I can personally corroborate these ones:
  • Right clicks can be difficult. The fingers must be lifted completely off the left side of the mouse for a right click to work.
  • The scroll ball is sensitive to dirt, and difficult to clean because it is not removable. It is often rendered inoperable and irreparable after only a few months of use.
  • The squeeze buttons do not provide much tactile feedback and can be awkward to reach.

The issue of tactile feedback (or lack thereof) brings us back to the iPhone:

How can you dial the iPhone without looking at it? How can you reach in your pocket and press “1” for voicemail? How can you orient yourself with the interface without seeing it? With a traditional phone or device with buttons you can feel your way around it. You can find the bumps, the humps, the cut lines, the shapes, the sizes. You can find your way around in the dark. Not with the iPhone.
(Posted by Jason on 37signals).


In the end, a flop may be in the eye of the beholder. And prediction without precision deserves derision. (That was original, by the way.) Whereas Nostradamus could get away with making vague and poetical prophecies, it behoves me as a scientist to make a falsifiable prediction. I haven't quite formulated this yet, but it seems to me that:
  • Apple has obviously sunk a pile of cash into developing and marketing the iPhone.
  • It's not clear that they'll recoup this investment.
  • Nor is it clear that they'll still be selling phones three years from now.

This was the sort of thing I had in mind when I made my initial prediction (flop cit).

I'll conclude this post by taking a page out of Nostradamus' book:

I do but make bold to predict (not that I guarantee the slightest thing at all), thanks to my researches and the consideration of what judicial Astrology promises me and sometimes gives me to know, principally in the form of warnings, so that folk may know that with which the celestial stars do threaten them. Not that I am foolish enough to pretend to be a prophet.
(Open letter to Privy Councillor [later Chancellor] Birague, 15 June 1566.)

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Anonymous Joe Dawson said...

Simple question... How do you define flop?

If they sell a million in the first year is that a flop?

I just wonder what is the metric that you would set now that we could look back at in a year and say... Yes it was a flop.

3:59 PM, January 17, 2007  

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