Internet chatter (mere speculation) regarding Apple’s cell phone plans is fascinating, evolving from “Will Apple release an iTunes-enabled phone?” to “When will Apple release and iTunes-enabled phone?”
Apple’s fall from computing dominance was driven in part by the company’s focus on launching market disrupting technology called “Newton”, the first hand-held computer (now called a PDA). In that instance, being first to market nearly destroyed Apple as they fettered away copious amounts of cash and Macintosh market momentum publicly trying to perfect an overpriced, poorly performing device for which most people weren’t yet ready. The icing on the cake was when a large number of Apple employees bolted to join a little company cofounded by Apple veteran Donna Dubinsky called Palm Computing.
Has Apple learned its lesson? I suggest they have, as they appear to be consciously dragging their feet in entering the music-enabled cell phone business. Their 2005 partnership with Motorola to produce an iTunes compatible cellphone resulted in a bit of a marketplace row when the product shipped sporting only meager musical capabilities. Apple’s problem? Heck no. It was a Motorola phone that disappointed, not an Apple phone.
Now, with 25 entrants in this increasingly crowded field, the time is ripe for Apple to make a huge splash in a market that curiously has benefitted from the mere speculation that Apple might come to play. I suspect in hindsight, we’ll marvel at the market awareness of Jobs et. al, in that they sat back, perfected an initial offering that dwarfed those of their early-to-market competitors, without giving up market share in a business where brand allegiance is trumped by feature set. And the iTunes universe is the killer feature set. Yes, Apple appears to have learned that lesson well.
Note: The iPhone rendition above is provided courtesy of MacRumors.com. According to that site, the iPhone will sport the familiar iPod click wheel interface, which will slide down to reveal a normal numeric phone keypad. I suspect that the functionality of the click wheel will be integrated into a touch-sensitive LCD screen, based upon recent US Patent Office applications by Apple for such an interface. Their filing, made September 30, 2005 is titled “Proximity detector in handheld device.” See image below, courtesy of the US Patent Office.