iPhone predictions

April 30, 2007

Seth Godin is putting out a challenge on what will happen with the iPhone. iPhone is the one product every marketing pundit seems to have an opinion on. And Seth and I are no exceptions.

Seth quotes Steve Ballmer and myself in believing iPhone will not be a winner. On the other side, Seth sides with iPhone and predicts 2 million units in 2007 and more in 2008.

It will be interesting to check back on this one next summer to see if iPhone can claim convergence success or it becomes the final convergence product to break the camel’s back. Will the convergence bubble finally burst?

The best way to predict the future is by studying the past. But in doing so, you need to separate what you want to happen from what you predict will happen.

Right now most people carry multiple devices and most people dream about being able to only carry one.

But dreams are different from reality. In reality, one device cannot do it all, at least not very well. Being able to do everything, means you are usually not very good at any one thing. In general, convergence products are difficult to use, larger, more expensive and have poor battery life when compared to the original.

In the future, the phone, the wireless email device and the music player will each evolve in different directions.

Why? Study history. Look at the computer and the television. Many thought these would naturally converge so that every home would have one device. Not so. I still have a TV and a computer. In fact, I have multiple varieties of each. Don’t you?

Instead of becoming more similar, televisions have become huge, giant sized devices with HD and other features. And computers have become smaller with the majority of units sold being laptops.

The same will happen with portable devices. The cellphone will become smaller. The BlackBerry might become bigger (It would be easier to type and read on.) And the music player will come in two varieties. The travel iPod and the home iPod. I have both a shuffle and a Nano myself. Running with my Nano now feels like I have a desktop computer strapped to my arm.

Early iPhone sales are likely to be brisk. Apple’s amazing ability to generate PR will no doubt attract many Apple fans and early adopters to purchase an iPhone. Just like they bought a Newton back in the day.

But I stand by my prediction that the iPhone will not be a long-term success. What we will see instead is further divergence not convergence. Remember Apple’s brilliant iPod is a divergence device.

That’s my opinion. I am officially on the record. Check back after the iPhone has been on the market for a year. Was I right or was I wrong? Only time will tell. If I am wrong, I’ll buy Seth an iPhone.