Three people who misjudged the iPhone, badly

Just the like guy who supposedly said in 1900 that “everything that can be invented has been invented” (actually a famous misquote, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good opening gambit), there were plenty of short-sighted commentators in 2007 whose crystal balls were on the blink when Apple launched the iPhone. Whatever your opinion of the ubiquitous smart phone, it was an irrefutable game-changer, leaving one-time market leader Nokia’s shares tumbling, and Motorola split in two and ultimately bought by Google.  The iPhone changed the mobile industry, but not everyone saw it that way from the beginning.

1. In this now infamous interview, loud-mouthed Microsoft exec Steve Ballmer (now CEO) laughed off the iPhone’s prospects with the kind of condescension that could only come back to bite him in the arse years later. These days, the market share for Windows Phone 7 (a fully touchscreen OS, by the way) is so tiny that research firm Nielsen doesn’t even list it.

2. It wasn’t just Apple’s rivals: supposed ‘business analysts’ were deeply cynical at Steve Jobs’ apparent gamble, entering a market with no experience or help from seasoned veterans. “The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks,” predicted Bloomberg’s Matthew Lynn. With iPhone sales expected to reach 100million this year, that’s a lot of gadget freaks.

3. Many were writing the iPhone off before it was even confirmed as a reality. The usually reliable Bill Ray of The Register decided in 2006 that an Apple phone was doomed to fail, and curiously also thought it would bring the iPod down with it. “Apple will launch a mobile phone in January…After a year a new version will be launched, but it will lack the innovation of the first and quickly vanish.” In fact, iPhone had its best quarter in the first three months of 2012, selling 37 million units, almost double the previous quarter, as this astonishing sales chart shows. A poor showing for Bill ‘Nostradamus’ Ray, there.

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