Wonders, Lisa, or Blunders?

November 2nd, 2007

Graham, or if we’re to follow the trend of referring to each other by weblog name, mr A. Single Pixel calls my post yesterday a “blunder” and me (by proxy of “Waffle”) “spectacularly wrong-headed”.

Point by point, as we go along:

  • Yes, Visual Voicemail is indeed fantastic.
  • Yes, iPhone is an amazing phone even without Visual Voicemail (even if Visual Voicemail could indeed push someone off the fence onto fertile “I’m getting one” soil).
  • Yes, there are estimates thrown around noting that Apple gets $18 monthly for each AT&T plan sold in conjunction with the iPhone. Regardless of the accuracy of the number, it’s established that revenue-sharing does happen. (And that’s “sharing”, meaning “going both ways”. Otherwise, it’s “revenue-giving”.)
  • Yes, iPhone will probably help make phones more featureful.
  • And yes, iPhone’s designation of the “Invention of the Year” is completely deserved.

You’ll note that I agree with most facts Graham cites. However, that’s not where my post was going. It tried to point out the absurdity in a (very) locked-down phone somehow clearing the road for more open phones, and as I have noted several times before, how ridiculously customer-unfriendly the US mobile phone network market is. (I’ve taken more flak for this; Scott Stevenson asked me to step out of my Ivory Towerâ„¢, and if that’s how it comes off, then too bad. I don’t mean that any other market is phenomenal, just that the US market in particular is bad.)

It’s not even economically debatable if Apple could sell the same iPhone for under $500. Of course they could, with margins too. It’s up in the air whether any US providers would like to provide Visual Voicemail for anything less than an exclusive deal, but luckily, there are also somehow a few billion people outside the US who would like to buy phones.

Graham even spells out that I (“some people”) “clearly still don’t understand” why Apple went with a network. I understand perfectly that they went with a network (it is the current popular model for selling a phone in the US), why they went with a network (Visual Voicemail) and even why they went with AT&T (AT&T gives them money. They like money.). I just hate that that’s how it is, particularly because it has set the tone for the same model for the iPhone in the rest of the world. Apple now has a successful model and it’s not going to be afraid to use it.

If you seriously think Apple couldn’t have sold the iPhone without locking it to a network, you’re looking at the market through the lens of status quo. Palm looked at the mobile phone market assuming status quo in the face of heated iPhone rumors last November, proposing that “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.“. You may have noted what a difference a year makes.

If the iPhone paves the road for better (or less crippled) phones, it’s because it’s a good phone. Not for any other reason.

At the end of the day, I think like so many other people that the model – or, the mobile phone network market – sucks. However, don’t confuse that with me hating the phone – or, the mobile phone market. I’m not; in fact, quite the opposite. More on this later.