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Pundits who got it wrong explain why ... or deny that they did
Before the iPhone was a smash
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, not everyone came away thinking that he held in his hand the future of the mobile phone. In fact, before the iPhone hit retail stores on June 29 -- five years ago Friday -- pundits had written scathing assessments that predicted the iPhone would be a failure, a flop, a messy egg on the forehead of Apple and Jobs.
Over the past few days, I've reached out to some of these prognosticators via email and asked: "What do you have to say for yourself?" The good sports replied -- including a colorful mea-culpa-tinged, Apple-bashing rant from John ("Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone") Dvorak.
David Platt: author, teacher, wrong about the iPhone
David Platt has written 11 programming books and teaches Programming .NET at the Harvard University Extension School. On June 21, 2007, he wrote a blog post, "Apple iPhone Debut to Flop, Product to Crash in Flames." It begins:
"The forthcoming (June 29) release of the Apple iPhone is going to be a bigger marketing flop than Ishtar and Waterworld (dating myself again, aren't I) combined. And it's not for reasons of price, or limited cell carrier options, or lack of corporate IT support, which are the mainstream media's main caveats when they review it. (See the June 19 issue of the Wall Street Journal for the latter). … Instead, the iPhone is going to fail because its design is fundamentally flawed."
Asked the other day what he has to say for himself, Platt offered what I consider to be the group's best reply: "Often mistaken, never in doubt."
Seth Porges, (then) TechCrunch columnist, wrong about the iPhone
In 2007, Seth Porges wrote a column called The Futurist for TechCrunch and the headline on his June 7 entry couldn't have been more clear ... or critical to its inclusion here: "The Futurist: We predict the iPhone will bomb." It begins:
"Until June 29, it's hard to tell too much about the iPhone, but I can tell you with near-certainty one thing: the product was almost certainly rushed to market before Apple's engineers would have liked."
Even before I heard back from him, I strongly suspected that I knew what Porges was going to say in his defense. I've said it myself. And I've had it said about me by writers claiming similar injustice. His reply:
"Hah! The editor slapped on that title without telling me. It never reflected my [point of view] -- which was that the second-gen iPhone would be less expensive and fill in the feature gaps."
Accept his account or not -- I do -- but what he did write was no vote of confidence for Apple or its new phone.
Al Ries, marketing consultant, author, wrong about the iPhone
Al Ries is a marketing expert and prolific author who with his daughter, Laura Ries, runs the Ries & Ries consultancy in Roswell, Ga. An AdAge blog post by Ries on June 18, 2007, carried the headline: "Why the iPhone will fail." It began:
"When Apple introduces its iPhone this month, will it pass the acid test?
"In my opinion, no.
"Prediction No. 1: The iPhone will be a major disappointment."
He acknowledges the obvious, while making a case for a split decision. And, since that case won't fit on this slide, it will be continued on a separate Buzzblog post. Ries writes:
"Well, I was certainly wrong about the iPhone, which turned out to be a miracle of engineering. But my larger point was the issue of divergence versus convergence."
Brett Arends, financial writer, wrong about the iPhone
On June 29, 2007, financial writer Brett Arends -- then a columnist for The Street, now a writer for The Wall Street Journal -- authored a piece that was headlined, "Five Reasons Not to Buy an iPhone." It begins:
"There is much to admire about the new iPhone. The hardware looks beautiful and the product is apparently smooth and easy to use. It's a terrific achievement for Steve Jobs and the Apple team. So give them their moment in the sun.
"But beyond all the iHype and iMania, let's get one thing clear. The iPhone isn't the future. It isn
It seems he wasn't wrong; I am.
"Regarding my iPhone piece, I must point out that over the past five years it has been vindicated. The article was prescient.
"It was written in June 2007, when the initial iPhone was released. People were lining up around the block to pay $500+ for the new products. I criticized it for what I considered five big flaws. And I went five for five: Apple later addressed all of them, along the lines I had suggested."
But there's the little matter of his unambiguous conclusion -- namely that the iPhone "isn't the future" and "won't be ushering in a new era."
Todd Sullivan, investment adviser, wrong about the iPhone
A co-founder of Rand Strategic Partners, Sullivan on May 15, 2007, authored a column on Seeking Alpha with the headline: "The iPhone: Apple's First Flop." It starts this way:
"Apple (AAPL) begins selling its revolutionary iPhone this summer and it will mark the end of the string of hits for the company.
"The company has had a string of hits since it introduced the iPod and its shareholders have benefited sending shares from $7 in 2003 to the $100 they sit at today. The introduction of the iPhone will be the first miscue for the company and send its shares, priced for perfection tumbling. 'Why?' -- you ask."
"I was wrong about everything on it except for the price drop to $299. -- Sent from my iPhone"
Nice touch that last part.
Tero Kuittinen, VP sales & marketing, wrong about the iPhone
Now a Forbes contributor, then a writer for The Street, Tero Kuittinen on Jan. 18, 2007, authored a piece that carried this headline: "Apple's Dangerous Contempt." It begins:
"Much has been said about Apple's first phone -- most of it tainted with feverish hyperbole.
"But a week after the grand announcement, it is striking how limited the device seems at a second glance. The iPhone's willful disregard of the global handset market will come back to haunt Apple."
What does Kuittinen have to say for himself?
"Well, that is easy -- I underestimated Apple's ability to coax operators to grant it massive subsidy support. The lack of 3G support also wasn't as limiting to the first edition of the iPhone as I expected. Apple was able to get the operators to subsidize the price of the iPhone massively -- that reshaped the whole industry."
Mitchell Ashley, IT executive, blogger, wrong about the iPhone
Lest anyone accuse me of going easy on my employer. ... On Jan. 11, 2008, IT professional and former Network World contributor Mitchell Ashley, writing on his "Converging on Microsoft" blog, authored a post with the headline: "Apple iPhone Doomed To Failure." It begins:
"I've blogged in the past about Apple's remarkable ability to innovate and set new directions in our industry. But as much as Apple is able to innovate, they are just as inept at dominating markets they enter. The iPod is really the only exception, and iPhone will fail to dominate as so many other Apple products have failed to in the past.
"The iPhone is certain to fade into history ..."
Seems it was a personal thing. His email to me reads:
"Never say anything out of spite -- just get over it. My blog post received massive page views but it was an epic fail. I wanted the iPhone to fail out of anger for all those difficult years prior to Apple adopting Intel and the Mach OS kernel. Now we support Macs alongside PCs where I lead IT and my family sports iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs. Apple was big enough to admit they were wrong, and now so am I. Through it all, Steve Jobs never stopped being one of my tech heroes."
John Dvorak, MarketWatch columnist, wrong about the iPhone
John Dvorak is not known as an Apple fan, so it wasn't exactly a surprise when on March 28, 2007, he wrote a column for MarketWatch that carried this double-barreled headline: "Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone ... Company risks its reputation in competitive business." It begins:
"The hype over the unreleased iPhone has actually increased over the past month despite the fact that nobody has seen or used the device. This, if nothing else, proves the power of branding and especially the power of brand loyalty.
"It's the loyalists who keep promoting this device as if it is going to be anything other than another phone in a crowded market."
You'll want to read the whole thing, which is on Buzzblog here, but Dvorak's reply -- a screed headlined "Getting it Wrong About the iPhone" -- primarily blames Apple for forcing him to opine about a device he had not held. This is how it ends:
"When I actually got to see the phone I was enthralled like everyone and regretted getting screwed over by the Apple 'machine.' But it was an entertaining exercise and a lot of Apple fans think it's hilarious I could be so wrong. But these people never liked me in the first place. And as for my prediction that this phone would be a bad idea for Apple to pursue, anything can still happen. Time is a cruel mistress."