If you want a nutshell encapsulation of the problems Microsoft is having trying to enlarge their franchise beyond the PC operating system market to general consumer electronics, nothing will serve better than the events of the last few days. After a soporific Gates’ keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show we were treated to some Robbie Bach whinging that Apple ought to be real careful about launching a cell phone. Today, Steve Jobs knocked the smartphone category out of the park at Macworld:
Capping literally years of speculation on perhaps the most intensely followed unconfirmed product in Apple’s history — and that’s saying a lot — the iPhone has been announced today.
Sweet, glorious specs of the 11.6 millimeter device (that’s frickin’ thin, by the way) include a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen display with multi-touch support and a proximity sensor to turn off the screen when it’s close to your face, 2 megapixel cam, 4GB or 8 GB of storage, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, WiFi that automatically engages when in range, and quad-band GSM radio with EDGE. Perhaps most amazingly, though, it somehow runs OS X with support for Widgets, Google Maps, and Safari, and iTunes (of course) with CoverFlow out of the gate. A partnership with Yahoo will allow all iPhone customers to hook up with free push IMAP email. Apple quotes 5 hours of battery life for talk or video, with a full 16 hours in music mode — no word on standby time yet.
Once again, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wowed the crowds like no one else can. In his 9 am keynote at MacWorld in San Francisco this morning, Jobs announced the new iPhone cell phone. From the description in appears to be a game changing device, and the public markets seem to agree. As of the time of this writing, Apple stock is up over 7% for the day. Competitor Research in Motion (Blackberry) is down over 6%, wiping $2 billion dollars in market cap off the table. Palm, maker of the Treo, is also down, nearly 6%.
The biggest letdown is the fact that the iPhone won’t be available until June 2007 in the U.S. They have so much horsepower and untested software packed into this tiny device that the first version will almost certainly have problems – overheating, bugs, etc. That won’t stop millions from buying it as soon as it is available. And it won’t stop me, either.
Me either – I’m already hearing petitions from the nontechnical side of the household even though our local Cingular (the exclusive iPhone service provider) coverage isn’t the best.
The take away is the not surprising observation that Microsoft just can’t seem do the consumer market. The closest they have come is with the spectacularly unprofitable Xbox 360 and they may still luck out there due to Sony’s incompetence if Nintendo doesn’t eat both their lunches, but it isn’t pretty and doesn’t ever promise to be particularly profitable. MSFTextrememakeover (“If they sold sashimi, they’d call it cold dead fish“) suggests it is a marketing problem, but I’d say it is bigger than that – it’s the all too common midlife crisis of mature and successful organizations. I’m sure that the shareholders devoutly hope that Microsoft executives just go back to milking their cash cows instead of further experimentation trying to perfect their midlife flings.
Update: This just in – Microsoft Will Add Video Games to Zune by July 2008:
Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, will introduce video games for its Zune music player within 18 months to match features available on Apple Computer Inc.’s dominant iPod.
No, it’s not April 1.