Particle Debris (week ending 12/4) Corporate Confusion and The Big iPhone Lie

| Particle Debris

On Monday, there was a story at ZDNet that sent reverberations through the blogosphere. Namely, that "The iPhone's next carrier is likely T-Mobile, not Verizon." Now, writers who follow Apple have speculated on that for a long time. However, when an analyst like Doug Reid with Thomas Weisel says it, traders and investors perk up. Mr. Reid's analysis, detailed in the article linked above, seemed compelling and some have suggested that it was responsible for a big drop in Apple's stock (AAPL) on Tuesday. The reason? If Apple partners with T-Mobile instead of Verizon, Apple won't sell nearly as many iPhones. But it's all just speculation. One report like that can cost investors a lot of money. Such is the state of the market these days.

Also on Monday, I laughed out loud when I read about a Nokia strategist talk about how they've focused too much on the technology of their smartphones instead of ease of use. Also mentioned was the glacial response to the Apple iPhone, borne of a bit of overconfidence. Anssi Vanjoki, chief strategist and number two in the [Nokia] group, said, according to the German publication, Handelsblatt, [translated here into English] "But I am very confident that we now know what we must do, namely to build cell phones that are easy to use and look good."

Maybe they'll look too good, then Verizon will make fun of how feminine they are. (More on that below.) It just keeps going round and round as the competitors are befuddled by the iPhone.

On Tuesday, I saw a fabulous compendium of all the criticism of the iPhone back in 2006 & 2007: "The great iPhone death watch." The comments are hilarious and reinforce the idea that the age of hyped marketing is over. Analysts can pontificate and ad agencies can come up with cute, deceptive ads, but on the Internet, people will tell people about their experiences. When customers tap into that Borg mind, the game's over for companies that make crap.

Do you like being hunted? Does it make you feel good to be a target. Do you like being victimized by deceptive advertising. Are you a market to be "penetrated?" Michael Martine (@remarkablogger) has written a thoughtful article on how a subtle change in corporate language can have a powerful impact on customers. For example, selling should not be coercion. It's education and trust. The money transaction is merely the side effect of the trust. Put in an Apple perspective, that's one reason why the Apple retail stores are jammed this holiday season. Highly recommended reading.

If you're familiar with Rupert Murdoch, the publisher, you may have been reading about his frustrations with enforcing the old business models of newspapers in the Internet age. He's even talked about having Google de-list all references to his empire's publications so people will be forced to cough up money for his products. It was interesting, then, that the Wall Street Journal, owned by Mr. Murdoch, invited Google CEO Eric Schmidt to explain his side of the argument. Thank goodness we don't need a WSJ subscription to read it.

In my opinion, the Apple iTablet is technically ready to go. What's holding it up is the delay while newspapers struggle with figuring out their business model -- if they can. Maybe it's just better to focus on the journalism and leave distribution to a company who knows how to deliver, like Apple. The result is loss of control, but greater revenues. I hope Mr. Murdoch and others figure out the trade-off before they go out of business completely.

Rolling around to Friday, I noted a humorous article at the Edible Apple about how Steve Ballmer, having copied everything else from Apple, is now seeking to change his name to, wait for it... Steve Jobs. It's hilarious and loaded with cogent sarcasm and wit.

I have always believed that the majority of iPhone users are male. Some research backs that up. In the summer of 2008, 67 percent of U.S. iPhone users were male, and I doubt that the number has changed much. Even so, if Verizon can get away with the Big Lie that iPhones appeal mostly to feminine (or effeminate) users, then the door is open to a typical advertising technique: Assume a fact not in evidence, then attack the pseudo-fact with claims about your own product. It's textbook, and here's how it works:

 

Most of you know that I wrote extensively for Applelinks.com in the late 1990s before going to work for Apple in 2000. I have many good friends there, including the venerable Charles Moore. Each Christmas, Mr. Moore collects a boatload of material, his Festive Mac series, about software for the Mac (and now iPhone), such as Christmas-themed calendars, screen savers and even apps that make it snow right on your Mac OS X desktop. He's just getting started, but here are the links to date for Advent Calendars and Screen Savers. These apps are fun and help put some of the spirit of Christmas right on your Mac's display.

Technical Word of the Week

This holiday season, many of us will be buying our favorite movies to watch or give as a gift. Whether it's DVD, Blu-ray or iTunes, here's a term the guys will need to know.

Chick-flicky. (adj.) Referring to a movie as being over the top as a chick flick. Usage: "That movie is too chick-flicky for me." With thanks to M. Behl in New Mexico.

Comments

ry

Reminds me of the Powerthirst spoof-mercial.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Funny John. I took that commercial a little differently, kinda in the spirit of Denis Leary commercials for Ford trucks. The dude isn’t pretty. He’s rugged. And he’s transferring that image to Ford trucks. I took this commercial to say that Droid isn’t pretty, it’s rugged. And I agree. Droid is not a pretty device. The iPhone is a pretty device. And they paired it with some pretty hot people in the commercial including a couple good looking dudes at the beginning. Does that make sense?

John Martellaro

Of course, perceptions may vary, but Apple Insider had this headline:

“Motorola suggests Apple’s iPhone is feminine in latest TV spot”

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/12/04/motorola_suggests_apples_iphone_is_feminine_in_latest_tv_spot.html

iJack

I took that commercial a little differently, kinda in the spirit of Denis Leary commercials for Ford trucks.

Nah.  The rugged guy throws fruit or something at three rather, um, precious-looking male mannequins at around the 18 second mark, and the macho VO actually says the word, “precious”.  I would say it’s probably anti-gay.

James Bailey

“Droid isn?t pretty, it?s rugged. “

Really? Exactly how is the Motorola Droid phone more egged than an iPhone? Droid has moving parts. The iPhone is a single solid piece. The Droid’s glass screen is larger than the iPhone’s which almost certainly makes it more fragile. The Droid has a removable battery with a loose cover that is already causing many complaints. The build quality on the Droid is nowhere near the iPhone’s build quality. The idea that the Motorola Droid is more rugged than an iPhone is laughable. Uglier I will grant but not more rugged.

James Bailey

Ha iPhone translated rugged to egged. Oh well.

Dave

When it comes to advertising, it doesn’t have to be true.

gslusher

One aspect that bothered me about the ad is that Americans were killed by SCUD missiles during the Gulf War. (Iraq also launched SCUDs against Israel, targeting civilians.) Is that the image Verizon wants to give to the Droid?

Adding to the puzzlement are the facts that, as missiles go, the SCUD isn’t very “fast;” is decidedly low-tech, unsophisticated and outdated; and has proved notoriously unreliable and inaccurate. (Their main advantage for Iraq was that they were launched from mobile platforms that could be hard to find.) Is Verizon saying that the Droid is also slow, low-tech, unsophisticated, and can’t do the job it was intended to do?

Of course, an earlier Droid ad had stealth-type fighters/bombers bombing American civilians, causing damage and injuring people, so, it’s possible that Verizon is saying exactly this.

I’ve been a Verizon wireless customer for roughly 5 years. I was considering an iPhone before, but these ads pretty much make it a sure thing that I’ll leave Verizon. I’ve written to Verizon telling them just that. (Their constant badgering to buy a new phone—and sign another contract—-plus the fact that they disabled many of the limited features on my cheap Samsung phone are also factors.)

John Dingler

Hi John,
The spin that a strength is instead a weakness, and a weakness into a strength, is totally Rovian: Kerry’s combat medals are a sign of weakness. Bush’s lack of combat experience shows his macho manlyness. And it was effective.

In gadgets, good design is effete. Then inject a replacement message such as that smartphones should have the impact of missiles.

I looked up the effectiveness of Sadaam’s scuds. They rarely reached their targets; Their guidance was faulty. Is the Droid smartphone faulty in some way?

Someone suggested that the US’s Patriot missile should have been used instead, but, during the Iraq-Israel war, a Patriot in automatic mode was only 50% effective in at least partially intercepting a Scud. Israelis than countervened the Americans by using it in manual mode, thereby achieving a higher success rate. If the Patriot is used as the metaphor, I suppose that the Droid should be used in manual mode? What does that mean?

According to one site however, the “Scud was an effective terror weapon.” We are left to wonder if that Droid is terrorizing the manufacturer with a fear of slow sales or is meant to warn the target audience that it may blow up, thereby terrorize it? The message is ambiguous. It could even be scary. We are not supposed to think this through, though, just feel macho about it all. Buy the Droid Scud instead of wearing a tutu while using the iPhone.

It seems as if the Droid people are attempting to undermine the Jonathan Ive message, which is that design is the total package, not merely its appearance.

iJack

strength is instead a weakness, and a weakness into a strength, is totally Rovian

YUP.

John Dingler

Hi iJack,
Buy the “Scuddly” Droid instead of the cuddly iPhone.

chano

Thanks John for another interesting and insightful article. In the case of being an Apple fan, I am proud to be in the Collective.

John Dingler

Let me change the sarcasm to an affirmative recommendation:

“Buy the cuddly iPhone instead of the scuddly Droid.”

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