iPhone: Genius! Flop! Unreleased!

I knew this was going to happen: the latest product from Apple has flown up the hype curve and crashed to the ground, and it hasn’t been released yet.

CNet analyst Michael Kanellos writes about “the Apple phone flop,” pointing out that it will be difficult for Apple to replicate their success with the iPod in the mobile phone market for a number of very good reasons (phone manufacturers are masters of style, existing smartphone products like the Blackberry are pretty good, phone makers innovate rapidly, quality of service is a make-or-break problem) as well as some non trivial ones that Kanellos didn’t raise (the carriers frequently get in the way of innovative products, disabling phone features that they can’t figure out how to monetize).

The article misses a couple of key things, though:

  1. Apple hasn’t released a phone yet.
  2. Even if it does, there’s no reason it has to conform to the rumored specs and price point.
  3. Apple’s real genius is in integration. The iPod and the PC or Mac, the iPod and iTunes—none of these are about single-function stories, they’re about ways that you can combine activities that are unexpected and add more value. There are plenty of ways for Apple to innovate in the phone space that the competitors in the space can’t match.

For some perspective, it’s worth remembering that this meme has been kicking around for four years now, and some things are just as true today as they were when Daring Fireball branded the whole mess as iPhony. Armchair product management is a fun sport, but it’s important to remember where the chair is located.