Wrong about the iPhone? Yes, but ...

Marketing expert Al Ries defends 'larger point: the issue of divergence versus convergence.'


With Friday being the 5th anniversary of the public release of the iPhone, I contacted a number of pundits who prior to that event had predicted that Apple's new gadget would be a failure, a flop, or at least hugely disappointing.

Their 2007 predictions and their replies to my question - "What do you have to say for yourself?" -- are featured in this slideshow:

(They predicted 'The iPhone Will Fail')

However, a number of the replies would not fit the slideshow format, so I thought it only fair to give them room enough to breathe here on the blog. This one is from marketing and author Al Ries, responding to my flagging of his 2007 AdAge column headlined: "Why the iPhone will fail." His reply:

Well, I was certainly wrong about the iPhone, which turned out to be a miracle of engineering.

But my larger point was the issue of divergence versus convergence.

In the past two decades, there has been an enormous number of media stories about convergence. The car with the airplane. The computer with the television set. The cellphone with the computer.

If convergence was the future of technology, there would be fewer categories of products. But actually the reverse is true.

We continue to see divergence instead of convergence. The tablet computer is the latest example.

As it turned out, the mobile phone industry followed the same pattern. Where there used to be one category (cellphone), now there are two: cellphones and smartphones.

Nokia made a major mistake in not recognizing divergence in cellphones. They used the Nokia name on the new smartphone category.

Apple wisely followed a different strategy. Each new category received its own brand name.

The iPod, the first high-capacity MP3 player. The iPhone, the first touchscreen smartphone. The iPad, the first tablet computer.

Nobody says they bought an Apple. They say, they bought an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad.

The one Apple product that didn't get its own brand name, the one Apple product that was a convergence product, Apple TV, is not doing very well.

If you'd like to return to the next slide, it's here.

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