iPhone watch

by Kieran Healy on June 28, 2007

I was able to pick up an iPhone early through a local contact at Apple, and I have to say it’s really something. No of course I wasn’t able to do that—who do you think I am? Besides, I already have a phone on a relatively new contract. But I was in the Campus Bookstore here at the U of A and, while briefly down in the computer section, I heard store employees field two calls from people asking whether it would be possible to buy an iPhone there tomorrow, and whether there would be an educational discount on them. The guy in the store replied with more than a trace of sadness that they weren’t carrying the phone because it was only available at Apple Stores and AT&T outlets. He didn’t know about the educational discount. I was only there for about five minutes and clearly these weren’t the first two calls they’d had about this today.

I won’t be buying one anytime soon but, like I said before, it seems to me that the iPhone is going to be a success for Apple, and will probably provide a large kick in the ass to other cellphone manufacturers in the process. Criticism of the iPhone—and general backlash against the widespred interest amongst consumers—has been brewing for some time now. John Gruber has been keeping track of some examples.

Having read a bunch of the iPhone Naysayers, I’m struck by how much they miss the point of what Apple is trying to do with the device (in addition, I find myself wondering what the qualifications for becoming an IT Industry Analyst are, exactly).

Skepticism about the phone is perfectly reasonable. It’s being marketed as a revolutionary device, and they don’t come along that often. What about the battery? What about the stupid AT&T network? Will it scratch? Will I be able to type on it? Is it way too expensive? Is it really all that different from my current phone? All reasonable questions. But much of the criticism I’ve seen seems driven by little more than sour grapes at the possibility that Apple could make something like this work as advertised, and deep irritation that a large group of consumers might be willing to pay for it if they did.

The tone and content of the criticism is much the same as it was for the introduction of the iPod, and before that (to a lesser degree) the iMac. It’s odd to see it persist, though, because the runaway success of the iPod kicked the legs out from under the standard Apple narrative. In this story, Apple made overpriced products that a small segment of the market was willing to pay for and to which they became cultishly devoted. Regular folks shied away from Apple’s higher prices and were indifferent to matters of design and usability. That stuff was for the effete, latte-drinking crowd. If Apple had gone under in 1995 or so, that would have been that. But the trouble with this story is that, just as you can now get a latte in every town in America, everyone in line at the coffeehouse has an iPod.

If Apple’s products are selling in huge quantities, the effete-elite line isn’t plausible anymore. This leaves the critics in an awkward place. A fallback position is that because there are other products on the market that do more (in functional terms) or are cheaper, consumers must just be too stupid to realize that they shouldn’t want what Apple is selling. But consumers never had any trouble not buying Apple products in the past when they didn’t want them. This leaves the argument that Apple’s success must be the effect of the Steve Jobs RDF on consumers. Explaining why this magic force has become so much stronger in recent years and yet only works for some of Apple’s products (e.g., the iPod) but not others (e.g., the Cube) is presumably left as an exercise for the reader. The idea that, just like the iPod, the iPhone may hit a sweet-spot of functionality, good industrial design and ease of use does not arise. This is odd, because clearly Apple have repeatedly being trying to hit this spot for years with different products—with mixed success—and to capture the most profitable end of the market when doing so. It’s not a difficult strategy to understand in the abstract, it’s just really hard to execute in practice. But even grasping it in principle seems beyond many of the “industry analysts” I keep seeing quoted in the papers.

Bonus Competitor Pushback Update: Sprint has just launched a “whyPhone” counter-publicity campaign emphasizing the iPhone’s limitations, as you might expect. The best line from the article: “Sprint spokesman Aaron Radelet … said Sprint has plenty of phones, and customers ‘do not need to wait in line to get them,’ apparently referring to the lines already forming outside Apple stores, although the device won’t be for sale until 6 p.m. Friday local time.” Or, to put it another way, Sprint has plenty of phones, and no-one is waiting in line to get them.

{ 79 comments }

1

matt 06.28.07 at 9:08 pm

_I’m struck by how much they miss the point of what Apple is trying to do with the device_

Other than make a huge pile of money, you mean? That was obvious, wasn’t it?

_In this story, Apple made overpriced products that a small segment of the market was willing to pay for and to which they became cultishly devoted_

Now we must say that Apple makes overpriced products that _large_ segments of the market are willing to pay for and to which they become cultishly devoted, I guess.

I suppose I have nothing against apple. (Except that when I used to have to use some of their old machines to get on the internet and they constant crash (“Unknown type two error” was something I heard way too often) and then was told this was somehow microsoft’s fault.) But treating them as if they were not just one more group trying to make as much money as they can gets annoying. (I’m not saying that Kieran is in this group. Just that many apple bosters seem to think that Apple is just full of virture, and that really annoys me.)

2

Shivering Timbers 06.28.07 at 9:15 pm

I’ve never quite understood the hostility to the idea that “works better” is a feature customers might want.

Maybe it’s because admitting that point requires also admitting that many other products don’t work so great–including the products some of these same analysts have made their careers touting.

3

Anderson 06.28.07 at 9:16 pm

virture

virtue + manure?

sounds plausible

4

Jacob Christensen 06.28.07 at 9:25 pm

I almost wanted to strangle you after those first two lines. :-)

…in addition, I find myself wondering what the qualifications for becoming an IT Industry Analyst are, exactly

I suspect that they are the same that you need to become a political commentator or economic journalist. Brad deLong will give you the details.

5

kirkaracha 06.28.07 at 9:52 pm

David Pogue’s Often-Asked iPhone Questions addresses some of your questions.

6

Vance Maverick 06.28.07 at 9:56 pm

latté

I believe a grocer’s apostrophe has been joined to your e, in a novel ligature.

7

Flaffer 06.28.07 at 9:58 pm

I agree with Kieran about how many analysts miss the point: under Job’s masterful direction (and arguably the world’s best technology design team), Apple has put out products that work, are easy to use, and look great. Every Mac I have ever had was a great machine (although the dearth of software in the 90s was a pain) and I had no problems I could not fix easily. The hardware lasted FOREVER (I still have a working Centris 610). And I cannot wait for Leopard. Really, name another company putting out such great hardware/software? And one that switched the underlying architecture with little or no snags? Brilliant.

Did I mention I want an iPhone?

8

Kieran Healy 06.28.07 at 9:58 pm

I’m not saying that Kieran is in this group. Just that many apple bosters seem to think that Apple is just full of virture, and that really annoys me

It’s the fact that these alleged analysts can’t seem to come up with any good theories to explain _why_ Apple is making boatloads of cash these days. Their virtue or otherwise is beside the point.

9

paul 06.28.07 at 10:12 pm

Like the author of this post, I have been following the “coverage” (if you can call endless attacks on the target market, Apple, Steve Jobs, AT&T, anyone connected with the device “coverage”) and it’s really surprising. Walt Mossberg and David Pogue have actually handled one and they liked it: the rest of them just hate it and everything it stands for out of sheer obstinacy, I guess.

Examples:
It won’t work because the AT&T network is too slow. Corporations won’t support it because it uses [*gasp*] open standards. It’s too small. It does too much. If it was possible to make something like this, someone else would have done it already. I haven’t stopped by my local store to see how the line is doing, but I suspect there is one.

As to how well it delivers, I guess we’ll know pretty soon now. Is this the next entrant in the race?

As for how you get a job as an analyst, I’m more interested in knowing how long you can be completely and utterly wrong about everything and still find work. I mean, I thought the Bush Administration was flypaper for incompetents: who knew there were so many?

10

Kieran Healy 06.28.07 at 10:30 pm

6: Erk. Fixéd.

11

Matt 06.28.07 at 10:36 pm

I’d guess that the reasons for Apple’s success of late is a mixture of three things: 1) it seems their products work pretty well, at least as well as most competators and better than some, 2) Tend-following, and (relatedly) 3)people are willing to spend a lot of money on status markers, even ones like “design” that don’t really add anything to the utlity of the object in question. Nothing too much wrong with any of those, of course, so long as we don’t fall into a “Apple, good! Microsoft (or whomever) Evil!” narrative. (Again, I don’t attribute that to Kieran at all. It’s pretty common among Apple supporters, though.

12

John Quiggin 06.28.07 at 11:05 pm

I noticed Jack Shafer at Slate still railing against the iPod, and was tempted to write something like this. Maybe when iPhones reach Australia in 2009 or thereabouts I’ll be able to phone it in.

13

jimbo 06.28.07 at 11:14 pm

“design” that don’t really add anything to the utlity of the object in question.

I have to ask: are you an engineer, or an economist?

14

Matt 06.28.07 at 11:19 pm

Neither, Jimbo. And I guess there’s a perfectly straight-forward sense (the philosophical sense) of “utility” in which making things have bright colors and curves increases their utility since it makes people (or some of them) _think_ they are getting something great, and so they _feel_ better. And in that sense _feeling_ better is all having higher utility is. But what I meant is that looking cool doesn’t make the product any better and so, if you are, like me, poor, isn’t a good reason to pay more for the thing.

15

togolosh 06.28.07 at 11:24 pm

Tech analysts are a self selecting group of people who like to play with gadgets for the sake of playing with gadgets. Apple’s core market is people who want something that performs a function without requiring lots of effort to understand, tune up, fix, and so on. The two groups will always have difficulty seeing eye to eye.

Frankly, I think the willingness of tech folk to spend hours tinkering with something to make it work is the only reason MicroSoft is still in business.

16

SG 06.28.07 at 11:30 pm

Matt, what about an iPod is elitist? I am a PC user but I didn’t pause for a moment in purchasing an iPod once I was in a position to. Their storage space is cheaper per gigabyte than the competition (at least in Australia) they look good and they have lots of accessory support the others don’t.

And since when is buying something that works and looks good because it works and looks good elitist?

A lot of the bullshit levelled against apple now reminds me of the classic Australian attack on the left – “chardonnay socialists”. It’s been in use for more than 10 years now. But about 10 years ago Chardonnay became Australia’s most popular alcoholic drink. So really the attack should change to “beer anarchists” or something. Or the people using these kinds of elitist slurs should try to find some substance for their arguments, and generally be a bit politer.

17

dan 06.28.07 at 11:45 pm

matt–

I have to disagree with your assessment of utility there. Apple’s products–the iPod being a great example–work better because of their design. The iPod experience would not be nearly as intuitive as it is, if it wasn’t as well designed as it is.

Am a late adopter to all things Apple myself, and probably would have shared the same opinion until I did do so. So I do understand the perspective. Just think that it’s not the case. Functionality paired with design makes people happy and commands a higher price. I’m grad student poor, but will be watching for the iPhone to fall to a price that I can afford…

18

Nick Caldwell 06.28.07 at 11:48 pm

I think Matt is still confusing design and decoration. Good design improves utility and usability in perfectly tangible and objective ways.

19

Matt 06.28.07 at 11:56 pm

Maybe- but most of what I see when people talk about “design” on Apple products _is_ decoration- the color, the shape (not in a functionaly way), etc. I’d agree that good design improves objects in in just the way you say. But is that really so in, say, the imac? (Here I _don’t_ mean the insides, but the body of the thing and how it’s put together.) For that, give me something else any day.

20

Slocum 06.28.07 at 11:56 pm

If Apple’s products are selling in huge quantities, the effete-elite line isn’t plausible anymore.

Except that the only Apple product selling huge quantities (relative to the competition) is the iPod, and they have laid other eggs besides the Cube, and recently too (the Mac Mini, Apple TV device).

In the case of the MP3 player market, Apple got in relatively early and the only competition they faced was from smaller companies (Rio, Creative). In this case, they are entering a relatively mature market with large successful competitors (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG) and also have to strike deals with the wireless companies who are suspicious of Apple (Verizon rejected the iPhone deal) and who, in exchange for allowing the iPhone on their networks, will demand significant concessions and limit Apple’s freedom to maneuver.

In terms of the device itself, I do see the attractions, but would not buy one. The problem is that it is just to big, for me, to be a full-time, carry-around phone, and I’m not really not interested in swapping SIM cards around. What I would like is a device with a somewhat bigger screen than an iPhone that had a hard disk for photos, music and video and WIFI and a web-browser (and while we’re at it, GPS and mapping while we’re at it). A combination personal media player, wifi tablet, and GPS mapping unit. But it wouldn’t be the phone I carried in my pocket (and it wouldn’t cost $500).

21

rilkefan 06.29.07 at 12:33 am

“But consumers never had any trouble not buying Apple products in the past when they didn’t want them.”

This is not a coherent argument, and the whole paragraph falls apart – it’s all propter hoc.

22

SG 06.29.07 at 1:00 am

Slocum, I think the iPod was also successful because of iTunes and the iStore (god iHate that iNomenclature). And because their competitors were still thinking in a walkman kind of mode, while the iPod was really about carrying your entire library around with you. You`re underselling the joys of the product here, and the importance of the ease with which people can access their entire library (and its remarkable cheapness!)

23

Jon H 06.29.07 at 1:14 am

matt wrote: ” making things have bright colors and curves increases their utility “

The iMac was ten years ago.

24

Jon H 06.29.07 at 1:21 am

Matt wrote: “But is that really so in, say, the imac? “

Which one?

The plastic rounded colorful CRT one?

The LCD one with the white hemisphere base and articulated neck?

Or the current white LCD monitor ones?

25

Matt 06.29.07 at 1:26 am

Any of them. Again, I don’t have anything against Apple. My only point is that much of what people _seem to me_ to talk about when they talk about design with them is just packaging and status marking, and that a desire to mark status _surely_ is part of their appeal.

26

Ginger Yellow 06.29.07 at 1:35 am

“The idea that, just like the iPod, the iPhone may hit a sweet-spot of functionality, good industrial design and ease of use does not arise. “

The reason I’m skeptical about the iPhone, and I still think they’ll make a lot of money off it, is that it doesn’t hit that sweet spot for me. It doesn’t provide anything like the functionality I want. At the periphery the internet will be way too slow and it can’t record video. But more importantly the storage is stupidly small for a massively expensive supposedly converged superphone. I’d be perfectly happy with an 80GB iPod with basic phone and text functions. Everything else would be a bonus. But an 8GB phone I have no interest in at all.

27

Nick Caldwell 06.29.07 at 2:05 am

25 — I suspect that most people just don’t have a fully formed vocabulary to describe design and their relationship to it, so they have to find ways to talk about it in a different vocabulary, hence the confusion between superficial appearance and more substantial elements of form and finish. And certainly status signalling is a factor too, but I think it’s working in a more complex way.

28

Martin Bento 06.29.07 at 3:04 am

In the 80’s Peter Drucker said the tech industry had to get out of its 19th century founder cult, where a great deal relied on the vision of one great man, and into the age of professional management. Drucker got a lot of things right, but there was something seriously amiss with his thinking here, that goes to the core of his whole work (as the father of professional management in a sense). Ousting Steve for the Pepsi guy was a scalp for those who agreed with Drucker. When Mr. Fixit sheepishly brought Steve back, only to get ousted himself, there came to be an ideological component to the fate of Apple that had to do with which “cult of the CEO” would dominate. Steve’s status as an ex-hippie who manages to retain some counter-cultural cachet primarily due to a feeling for aesthetics aggravates this. Remember that when the Enronians were cutting off California’s power, Cheney, I believe it was, snarled at the “damned hippies in California”. There’s a lot of subtext here.

29

Helen 06.29.07 at 3:41 am

it makes people (or some of them) think they are getting something great, and so they feel better. And in that sense feeling better is all having higher utility is. But what I meant is that looking cool doesn’t make the product any better and so, if you are, like me, poor, isn’t a good reason to pay more for the thing….”

…etc…

I use one and, because the vast majority of viruses are targeted at PCs, I don’t have to spend time and money on antivirus software and firewalls. That’s a huge advantage.

30

a 06.29.07 at 5:11 am

I’m a big Apple fan, but it does seem expensive – not the phone itself, but the service contract, the cheapest being 720 Usd per year. I don’t have a mobile phone, so I don’t know how much contracts run for, but that’s a huge chunk of change. I’m tempted just to buy the phone and forget the contract.

31

Jon H 06.29.07 at 5:14 am

slocum writes: “Except that the only Apple product selling huge quantities (relative to the competition) is the iPod”

Yes and no. Apple’s laptop sales rose significantly faster than anyone else’s in the most recent quarter, and generally they’ve been seeing sales rise quickly relative to many PC vendors.

Computers are expensive enough that Apple would be unlikely to garner the same kind of marketshare as the iPod has, but their sales have been rising.

32

Jon H 06.29.07 at 5:15 am

“I’m tempted just to buy the phone and forget the contract.”

Can’t.

33

a 06.29.07 at 5:54 am

32: Oh that’s right. Pity.

34

Jake 06.29.07 at 8:02 am

Apple bashing is weird. I think that part of it has to be the difficulty of quantifying “really easy to use” makes adding value as an analyst difficult. “Really easy to use” is also pretty hard to focus-group or middle-manage your way to. Both of these will cause it to be downplayed as a virtue. For what it’s worth, the reason all of the software engineers that I work with (except one who is insane) use Macs is simply that they just work well and don’t get in the way. As one of the most important tools of our trade, the extra couple hundred bucks vs. a Dell is one of the best investments imaginable.

35

Bruce Baugh 06.29.07 at 8:26 am

Jake, that’s why so many of the professional writers I know use Macs too – it’s worth it to spend more money once in exchange for greatly reduced time and effort maintaining the thing, and for general ease of use. The things that it’s hard to do for oneself on a Mac (particularly a laptop), like putting in a different hard drive, are prett much all things they don’t want to do, while the things that matter to them are the ones that Macs do reliably and comfortably.

I have some tech-working friends who just seem not to really believe, down at the gut level, that there are people who not only don’t adjust and compile their own source code, remove and replace hardware components, and fiddle with undocumented parameters, but who don’t want to. They have lost sight of the fact that what was for them first a hobby and then a job isn’t the point at all for most computer users. They’re in the position of film makers who think that everyone really wants to think about shooting on film versus digital versus whatever, or bus drivers who expect all their passengers to want to be able to pass the commercial driving test too. But no, what most computer users want is for the computer to work well enough that they don’t ever have to know these things.

As I’m regularly reminded when helping my almost-eighty-year-old mother learn to use her first computer (a Mac Book, chosen by her after trying out various laptop and desktop models), Apple has by no means hidden all the engineering from end users. But it’s done much more in that line than anyone else so far. I vividly remember her efforts to try to learn various flavors of Windows. They were not successful, despite all that Dad and I could do to write out tip sheets and the like. This time she’s picking up a whole lot more, and enjoying it a whole lot more – and doing a lot more, which is the real point. By hiding some parts of how computers work, Apple has opened up the parts that she is interested in.

36

novakant 06.29.07 at 8:40 am

it’s the ultra-smug marketing paired with the ignorant snobbishness among the true believers that puts me off; that said, I bought a MacPro and it’s running windows without a hitch ;)

37

Slocum 06.29.07 at 11:17 am

Yes and no. Apple’s laptop sales rose significantly faster than anyone else’s in the most recent quarter, and generally they’ve been seeing sales rise quickly relative to many PC vendors.

In the MP3 player market, Apple is the single dominant ‘player’ and the iPod is the defacto standard. With computers, their market share is up somewhat but remains very small (low single digits globally):

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/07/04/30/apples_mac_share_inches_upwards_during_first_quarter.html

And I’d be surprised if that changed much given that most of the growth in the PC market seems likely to come from the developing world and Apple’s premium pricing pretty much rules out their making a significant impact in those markets.

38

Matt McGrattan 06.29.07 at 11:55 am

The Apple price premium is exaggerated. Yes, they are more expensive than the average box-shifter. But a MacBook isn’t really that much more expensive than the higher-end Sony or Toshiba equivalents.

39

dbomp 06.29.07 at 12:17 pm

I won’t get one. I know that within a week I’d sit on it, or my dog would chew it up, or I’d forget it on the counter at the 7-11. I just can’t see myself carrying $500 of equipment with me at all times. I’m too scared.

40

Slocum 06.29.07 at 12:20 pm

The Apple price premium is exaggerated. Yes, they are more expensive than the average box-shifter. But a MacBook isn’t really that much more expensive than the higher-end Sony or Toshiba equivalents.

Even if true, that misses the point — Apple sells only higher end machines. The least expensive MacBook offered is $1100 (and that’s really a loss-leader, it’s $1300 if you want to be able to write to DVDs). But perfectly functional PC notebooks (including DVD writers and larger screens) can be had for less than half that ($500-$600). Some even sell for under $400. If Apple won’t sell any notebook for under $1100, they’re not going to sell many in the developing world.

41

Matt McGrattan 06.29.07 at 1:46 pm

re: 40

yeah, but why should they adopt the same business model as others? They aren’t going to compete at $500 a laptop. They can compete at $1200 a laptop.

42

Sundermat 06.29.07 at 2:25 pm

Having read this article I would come back to the thought of elitist design. Design is not elitist. That is like saying working class people can’t enjoy art. Design does add to a product. I had been a life long PC user but as a film maker apple had 2 things that made me buy one when my, quite expensive, Viao went down the river. Final Cut Pro and its size. I wanted a piece of equipment that could edit DV on site anywhere in the world that did not break my back carrying it around.

Powerbook g4 with a 12″ screen. Small, powerful and still working as well as it did when I bought it 3 years ago. The design of it means it can take the knocks, which my work puts it through. Again there are harder wearing computers out there now but they look like bricks. And anyone who thinks carrying something ugly around is just because you want not to be elitist should go buy Asda/wallmart trousers/slacks and a nylon suit.

Design matters. Not just in a utilitarian way but in an environmental way. Think of a good building and a bad building near you. How you can admire one and try not to look at another. They both do the same thing but one you would rightly consider better for the simple reason it looks better. Why is certain art more valuable. Because it hits a spot. Now others will say this is elitist rubbish but if everything was built purely for utility the world would be a pretty awful, blade runner style place. But even Blade Runner had an art department running round making it look better.

So why not pay a little extra for some thing that, in my opinion, looks better as well as functions to fit my needs. PC laptops can edit but as an earlier post said, not without me having to deal with windows on a regular basis.

This was meant to be a little more concise and too the point. My Apologies.

43

omicron 06.29.07 at 3:01 pm

38: The premium isn’t exaggerated? For comparable computer’s you are looking at paying at least 20% more. Go on the apple site and design yourself a desktop there, prices quickly reach into the 4000+ dollar range for something that would cost you $2000-2500 with a PC.

Not to mention my Dell laptop (about a year old) cost $1700 at the time, and to get the same stats I would’ve had to buy a $2200 mac book. Even if the prices were comparable, the money I save being able to use open source software is phenomenal.

Lastly, people complaining about virii and spyware, I bought NOD32 AV last year for $40, and haven’t gotten a single virus in that time, I haven’t even had to open it to run a scan in that time and it uses 16-ish MB of system resources. Not to walk around touting software, but frankly, it’s the best piece of AV I’ve ever used.

As for the iPod debacle, the Creative Zen line trumps the iPod line in my opinion. A 40 – 120 GB Mp3 player for less than $200? Similar interface to an iPod, how can you lose?

44

Slocum 06.29.07 at 4:00 pm

yeah, but why should they adopt the same business model as others? They aren’t going to compete at $500 a laptop. They can compete at $1200 a laptop.

I’m not saying they should — there are many successful brands that focus on premium, higher margin, lower volume products. But that strategy precludes the Mac from becoming a market-dominant, mass phenomenon like the iPod.

It’s not clear which approach Apple intends with the iPhone, but I’m guessing a more Mac strategy than an iPod strategy (probably out of necessity).

45

Matt McGrattan 06.29.07 at 4:03 pm

Even if the prices were comparable, the money I save being able to use open source software is phenomenal.

I’m not sure I understand that comment. Macs can run most of the major open source packages. I can’t think of many they can’t.

46

Kieran Healy 06.29.07 at 4:43 pm

Macs will compile most all open source software. I use open source stuff — Emacs, R, LaTeX, etc — all the time.

As for the price premium, while it is certainly true that Dell and other PC vendors sell bargain-basement PCs and Laptops, matched feature-for-feature comparisons “consistently”:http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=macintosh_os&articleId=9023959&taxonomyId=123&intsrc=kc_feat “find”:http://www.macworld.com/2006/08/features/macproprice/index.php that there’s no real evidence of an Apple premium. It’s just that Apple chooses not to compete in several sectors of the market. This means that, depending on your needs, you may well be able to put together a specific kind of laptop or desktop PC that will be cheaper than the nearest Apple offering. But what is much less likely is that you will be able to do this in the opposite direction — i.e., find a PC with a hardware configuration about the same as a Mac but for significantly cheaper. This is especially true since Apple transitioned to Intel chipsets. And of course it does not take into account any of the hardware and software design advantages that Apple might have over price-comparable Dells or what have you running Windows.

47

Jake 06.29.07 at 4:56 pm

It’s the sign of someone who is either woefully underinformed or a troll.

But the “to get the same stats” line demonstrates exactly the issue at hand. It’s when you look beyond a few numbers on a spec sheet that things become clear, much like the comparison between a Camaro and a Miata (or any of the british sports cars with which it shares a common heritage).

48

David 06.29.07 at 5:03 pm

Re 36: Talk about ignorant. Comments about the ignorance of “true believer” Mac users would fill a terabyte drive and still amount to little more than drivel. The reflexive disdain, bordering on hatred, for Macs is at least as pathetic and ignorant as the carrying-ons of the most fanatical Mac users. And the bashers outnumber the true belivers a 1000 to 1 (perhaps chanelling the god of market share).

49

Slocum 06.29.07 at 5:16 pm

It’s just that Apple chooses not to compete in several sectors of the market.

This is true, but Apple’s configurations are pretty odd. For example, you can’t buy a Mac notebook with anything slower than a 2.0G dual core processor. But this is an expensive part that’s overkill for nearly all users. If you’re going to do web browsing, use office apps, store and edit digital photos, watch DVDs, and so on, the expensive processor is a complete waste of money. But Apple leaves off a DVD writer (an inexpensive part which most users would find very useful for backing up their collections of digital photos and video clips) unless you spend $200 extra, and then you can’t get a bigger 15.4″ screen (which, again, most users would find useful — except those who care more about portability than squinting) unless you go all the way up to at least $2000.

The vast majority of Mac users would be perfectly well served running OSX on one of those $600 machines — which actually can run OSX if you’re willing to do a bit of hacking. See for example:

http://www.profit42.com/index.php/2007/02/07/osx-1048-on-a-normal-intelamd-computer/

But Apple won’t sell you a low-cost Mac (or OSX to run on your low-cost PC) because … well because Apple needs the high margins support their R&D given that they have a much smaller user and revenue base than MS does. One of the main ways Apple supports OSX development is by requiring users to buy expensive machines to run it.

50

Matt Kuzma 06.29.07 at 6:00 pm

Being on the outside of hype always has a bitterness to it. As someone completely disinterested in Harry Potter, all I see is a lot of people having fun for the wrong reasons. I like fun, but I can’t participate in thier fun, so there’s a bit of resentment. I’ve come to terms with it.

As for Apple, some of that outside-the-hype feeling can easily come for those of us who really are looking for different features from a music player than what the iPod is offering. And especially for those of us who are big fans of the open-source movement and the ability to customize one’s software – an attitude unsupported by Apple.

As someone who has yet to be happy with a single Apple product I’m nevertheless a fan of Apple because they seem to be one of the only companies in the world who take design seriously and who honestly want to present the consumer with an enjoyable experience.

51

Jon H 06.29.07 at 6:29 pm

“But Apple won’t sell you a low-cost Mac “

You could always get an Apple TV, which runs OS X. ;)

52

BrianK 06.29.07 at 7:55 pm

I’m ambivalent about Apple’s recent success. I like the company to receive plaudits for its excellence, but in a way, I’m afraid that Apple will become too successful.

Because Apple had such a small market share in computers, it had to innovate like crazy just to survive. I suspect Mac OSX, in all of its feline incarnations, simply wouldn’t have existed if Windows wasn’t the dominant player in the market. With the iPod, Apple has become the Microsoft of the music player market, and I’m afraid that like in most monopolies, innovation will suffer.

Hats off to Apple for an incredible decade of innovation, and here’s to hoping that it won’t take a massive failure to keep their competitive fires burning.

53

FMguru 06.29.07 at 9:02 pm

My favorite strain of the-iPhone-will-flop-ism is the one where “analysts” point out that it’s going to be a bust in the enterprise because it doesn’t have a seamless Notes/Exchange interface nor allow the porting of custom Java applications or remote administration and imaging. A surefire trainwreck! What on earth is Apple smoking? Steve Jobs can fool some of the people some of the time, but this will almost certainly be his Waterloo. Etc. etc.

It never seems to occur to them that the current model of the iPhone is aimed squarely at consumer end-users, who could scarcely give two shits about all that. It’s like they can’t conceive of something with the general price and functionality of a Blackberry or Treo that is not aimed at exactly the same market as the Blackberry or Treo. They can’t imagine someone would make a high-end phone not for them. It’s a new thing, a high-end phone/music player/internet widget, and it’s seeking a new market.

The punchline is that many of these huffy corporate IT types will end up supporting and integrating the iPhone – once half their sales force, three of the VPs, and the CEO buy them and demand they have access to the company email/network.

54

richard 06.29.07 at 9:04 pm

bruce @ 35 and omicron @ 40 neatly encapsulate the argument around Macs that’s been going on for decades: sticker price vs costs of maintenance and use. Does anyone know of any good historical literature on this issue? It seems highly relevant today, and I’m sure it has been for centuries. As my mum says: “buy good quality – it’s cheaper.”

FWIW, at one company where I worked, the sysadmin insisted that everyone have macs; he refused to support PCs, because, he said, experience had told him that each PC user would eat up about 20x more of his time than a Mac user, and he didn’t have the budget to hite more staff. Of course, there are reasons for this, such as standardisation of hardware and software, which don’t have to have anything to do with whose product is better, but from the standpoint of the organisation, I thought it was revealing.

briank @ 52: I suspect Mac OSX… simply wouldn’t have existed if Windows wasn’t the dominant player in the market.
This is such a delightful reversal of the usual reasoning: I’ll have to go think about it for a while. It may even be true.

55

richard 06.29.07 at 9:10 pm

BTW: we seem to be at a very special moment in the history of the personal computer: for the past 3 or 4 years, Microsoft-driven PCs have been largely free of crippling reliability issues, and people are expecting them to ‘just work,’ just like a Mac. Steve Jobs must be so relieved to see Vista.

56

Barry 06.29.07 at 11:53 pm

Slocum: “…which actually can run OSX if you’re willing to do a bit of hacking.”

You know, ya just *might* want read the other comments in this thread. Something about ‘it just works’?

57

Caslon 06.30.07 at 12:08 am

The last thing I need is another device that needs a special battery charger. I’ve already got ten of them. And if a device doesn’t need a battery charger, it needs a power brick to reduce the voltage. There must be eight or nine sitting behind my monitor and peripherals. And if it needs neither a charger or power brick, it probably requires a remote, of which I have twelve. One of my favorite party games is asking guests to turn on the television. Not one has succeeded.

My life has become a tangle of electrical cords, power strips, surge protectors, line conditioners, USB hubs, card readers, and backup drives. I spend more time looking for remotes than using the gadgets they control. Call me a post-technology radical if you will, but enough is enough. I’m going back to analog.

58

Slocum 06.30.07 at 1:09 am

Slocum: “…which actually can run OSX if you’re willing to do a bit of hacking.”

You know, ya just might want read the other comments in this thread. Something about ‘it just works’?

You missed the point. Hacking is required to run OSX on PC laptops not because they don’t ‘just work’ but because Apple has gone out of its way to prevent it — and the hacking is to get around that.

Ironically, when OSX for Intel first came out, the only machines for developers that ran it were PCs because there were no Intel-based Macs yet available. So Mac developers had to use PCs to develop software for the Intel-based Macs. But of course, before it actually released OSX for sale, Apple added code to prevent it from running on non-Apple computers, hence the hacking.

So I don’t suggest anyone go out and buy a $600 PC notebook to run OSX (unless they like messing around) — only pointing out that it would work (without hacking) if Apple didn’t actively prevent it.

59

kids at play 06.30.07 at 1:15 am

I love the way academic sociologists and their fans are also experts at IT management. Responding to 53 above,

The punchline is that many of these huffy corporate IT types will end up supporting and integrating the iPhone – once half their sales force, three of the VPs, and the CEO buy them and demand they have access to the company email/network.

it might come as a surprise to you to learn than salesmen, VPs and CEOs don’t determine device strategy in well run organisations, for good reasons based on history. If they want connectivity with enterprise applications, and support when their pretty device breaks, they do what IT tells them.

Sorry fellas.

60

SG 06.30.07 at 1:29 am

Slocum, have you ever tried working for any length of time on a $600 notebook? If you have successfully done this, you are either using it as a glorified word processor, or you should change your alias to “St. Slocum the Infinitely Patient”. $600 notebooks are very expensive doorstops only. Comparing one to a notebook which actually works seems a bit strange to me.

(and similarly, someone up above was complainign that if you want the features of a $2000-2500 desktop on a mac, you need to spend $4000. besides the possibility that that is mostly the screen (and who doesn’t want an apple monitor?), who on earth needs a $2500 desktop? You can get a perfectly kick-arse desktop for $1400 with monitor. So if you are buying a $2000-2500 desktop you’re already in specialist territory, and you won’t be comparing computer first and foremost on price).

61

Kieran Healy 06.30.07 at 2:53 am

they do what IT tells them. Sorry fellas.

I was wondering when the first BOFH would show up. You do what IT tells you, because IT owns the network, and don’t you forget it. I used to work as a network support guy and several of my coworkers really believed that the IT dept owned all the company’s computers and people should be allowed to use them as little as possible — preferably not at all.

62

FMguru 06.30.07 at 4:31 am

Pure comedy. I liked the part where, after accusing us of being a bunch of ivory-tower elitists, he confidently declares that out in the REAL WORLD corporate IT directors routinely tell their CEOs to take their stupid requests and go pound sand.

Uh huh. Tell me another one.

63

kids at play 06.30.07 at 5:00 am

Wow. A network support guy, Kieran? You must really know your stuff then. I’m a sociologist too. I read a book on it once.

fmguru, tell me what happens when a few thousand customer details leak out on to the internet.

64

nick s 06.30.07 at 5:16 am

1. Most mobile phones in the US market, particularly those sold by the main carriers, are shit.
2. Most mobile phone plans are extortionate.

Combine them, and you have an opportunity for someone to sell a phone that’s not shit on an extortionate plan.

65

nick s 06.30.07 at 5:27 am

If Apple won’t sell any notebook for under $1100, they’re not going to sell many in the developing world.

Apple doesn’t really care about any market outside the US. Yes, it offers pretty nice internationalisation. But as far as markets are concerned, it’s working with what it knows.

for the past 3 or 4 years, Microsoft-driven PCs have been largely free of crippling reliability issues, and people are expecting them to ‘just work,’ just like a Mac.

Ah: that’s on account of the rise of the parent-proofed PC setup, and the willingness of children to install Firefox, AdAware etc. and enable auto-updating on their parents’ PCs during holiday visits.

66

alf 06.30.07 at 7:30 am

Apple makes some good products, The ipod is a great piece of hardware, but the iphone is just shit. It really does seem like apple sacrificed style for functionality with it. They just had to have their big shinny touch screen instead of functional buttons. Tactile feedback is very useful. I would love to see a tablet Macbook with the iphone touchscreen technology, but cellphones are inherently too small for it. Add this to the fact that the iphone is too expensive, has a slow Internet connection, a week camera and a nonreplaceable battery and you have a shitty phone, and even “visual” voicemail isn’t going to make up for that.

67

Kieran Healy 06.30.07 at 8:19 pm

Wow. A network support guy, Kieran? You must really know your stuff then. I’m a sociologist too. I read a book on it once.

As you please, mate. I’ll note that my skepticism in the original post was directed at “industry analysts” and not IT managers. But you seem pretty touchy so I should probably leave you alone.

They just had to have their big shinny touch screen instead of functional buttons. Tactile feedback is very useful. I would love to see a tablet Macbook with the iphone touchscreen technology, but cellphones are inherently too small for it.

Alf have you used the iPhone interface? Pretty much all of the reviews say that the touch interface is a really great way to interact with the device (to open applications, browse messages and media, etc), and that getting used to the typing isn’t such a big issue. “Kottke”:http://www.kottke.org/07/06/quick-iphone-review, for instance, said that “When I go back to using my Macbook Pro, I want to fling stuff around the screen like on the iPhone. It’s an addictive way to interface with information.” He also said that “After fiddling with it for an hour, I know how to work the iPhone better than the Nokia I had for the past 2 years, even though the Nokia has far less capabilities.” This kind of reaction is pretty typical of the reviews so far.

68

novakant 06.30.07 at 9:45 pm

ok Kieran, let’s make a deal: you’ll beta-test that thing for me, and then in a year’s time, when the 3G version with all the bugfixes comes out, I’ll consider buying it ;)

69

Kieran Healy 06.30.07 at 9:50 pm

Sorry nova, I’m letting everyone else do the beta testing. I’ve got a crappy t-mobile phone to wear out first.

70

richard 06.30.07 at 10:11 pm

It really does seem like apple sacrificed style for functionality with it. They just had to have their big shinny touch screen

I know! Who wants shins all over their touchscreen? What kind of style is that?
Breasts, maybe.

71

novakant 06.30.07 at 11:02 pm

I’ve got a crappy t-mobile phone to wear out first.

the t-mobile selection in the US seems a bit limited, not much help to you, but over here it’s better: I’ve got my eye on the MDA Vario II, which is a branded version of the HTC TyTN. I’ve seen it in action and it’s a really nice piece of kit.

72

novakant 06.30.07 at 11:06 pm

I just checked: in the US it’s the Cingular 8525

73

Geoff 07.01.07 at 5:59 am

Most of the backlash, I think, is because of the hype, and not the phone itself. The iPhone is a perfectly decent device that doesn’t do anything more than other devices on the market, but does some things better and a few things worse.

As a result, some people are bothered by the fact that people are willing to line up for days to get one. They feel that Apple is getting hailed as a conquering hero for making only incremental improvements on existing designs; at the same time, it continues to reap the residual benefits of having truly done something exceptional with the iPod.

In other words, people are upset that Apple is getting credit for doing something it hasn’t actually done. And I can sympathize with that.

74

Suvi 07.01.07 at 6:51 pm

the hype

Exactly.

Right or wrong, I keep getting reminded of the $10 t-shirt with a $50 alligator on it

75

Martin James 07.02.07 at 4:14 am

I love those overpriced alligator shirts and I bought the friggin Iphone just to say I did and the gall durn thing doesn’t work with Windows 2000 so now I’ve got to buy a stinkin’ Mac cause I’m too lazy to upgrade and my computer guy is off for the holiday.

Status anxiety sucks!

76

bemused 07.02.07 at 7:04 am

In my family it’s the parents who understand computers. We run Linux on refurbished one generation back Thinkpad/Lenovos. But when we sent our kids to college, we bought them iBooks, since remote support was too difficult. And their machines just worked. I wouldn’t have done that before OSX (too many years supporting the last generation Macs in their schools…those machines were unreliable just like Windows).

77

alf 07.02.07 at 7:09 pm

Alf have you used the iPhone interface?

No I haven’t and I probably came down to hard against it. I do seem to have an irrational Iphone hatred, but having used touch screen phones in the past, my hatred for touch screens is very rational. Like I said I would love to see Apple’s touch screen technology on a full size computer, but the typing examples I’ve seen look like a huge pain in the ass. Buttons are a really useful apple should have included more. At least left and right ones so I don’t have to drag my greasy fingers across the screen every time I want to scroll to the next page.

But I was probably to harsh. The Iphone isn’t shit. It’s a very nice toy, which is what is marketed to be. For people with enough money to blow who don’t need real functionality beyond playing youtube videos and a nice UI it’s a great phone, I just don’t think 600 dollars and the AT&T rate is worth it for a nice toy.

78

c.l. ball 07.02.07 at 8:57 pm

I have had one running since Sat. — it looks real cool and is easy to read and dial on but the phone voice quality is normal to poor, the AT&T phone coverage is poor — I have no service in areas tht my 2002 base model Motorola (with no antenna) on Verizon has full strength, the EDGE nework is slow when it works — I have been unable to get any EDGE coverage since 8:06 am CST today (and it is almost 4 pm now). 50% chance that is goes back in the 14-day return window at this point. A video iPod costs less and holds more data.

79

David 07.03.07 at 2:36 am

Sorry to go off topic here, but: Alf, it’s “too” not “to.” I take this as a manifestation of your irrational reaction.

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