Why Motorola et al Couldn't Have Created The iPhone

One of the defining characteristics of business and commerce is constancy and equilibrium. This is where consumer behavior is habitualized to the point where you can reasonably predict how everyone will act or consume. This how economics works, it describes a constancy over time. This is how we can predict that tomorrow your local Starbucks will sell 1000 lattes etc. The same too for carrier/manufacturer relationships. The relationship between say Motoroa and AT&T is such that the relative power in the relationship is such that the carrier decides whether or not a product will enter the market. Such is the case that Motorola did indeed offer a touchscreen cellphone to Cingular, but was rejected by the carrier. Once the relationship is struck, it is difficult to change over time unless there is a major external influence to disrupt that relationship or cause it to move in a different direction. In this relationship the carrier pretty much dictates how and what goes into a cellphone design so inevitably it’s corporate interest goes into the design of the phone. When it comes to downloaded music on the phone, it results in limited functionality, expensive pricing models and low adoption. A good example is the Sprint PCS system, a walled garden limited use product that is virtually useless. Which leads me back to my point and that is none of the existing cellphone manufacturers could have delivered the iPhone. The state of their relationship is such that a number of features would have never seen the light of day. The iPhone is the first sanction phone that is able to sync with an online music store independently of the carrier. I know you can do this on the Treo et al but to set it up and make it work requires a high degree of skill. The combination of the iPhone with iTunes makes all the other devices completely redundant. Itunes is easily the most powerful and easy to use music browser on the market. My assumption is that AT&T is getting no revenue from the iTunes relationship. The iPhone is the first phone to make extensive use of a full blown browser. All other browsers are poor substitutes. And yes I have used the N900 from Nokia, but the sliding window viewer is really annoying. It has been a major challenge for users to effectively utilize the Internet on the move. Here I don’t necessarily blame Motorola, it is a set of design objectives dictated to it by the carriers and they are predicated on the functionality as a cellphone first, a multimedia device second. Thirdly, the iPhone’s glass interface, also the future of the iPod interface, is the first to tackle the real problem of input on mobile devices. Although both the Treo and the Blackberry use a small keyboard, the iPhone has made extensive use of gestures and touch keypad to solve what really is an intractable problem to the growth of this segment of the market. Apple has really made a consumer friendly device that incorporates the compelling application components into an attractive product. It would be difficult to see this level of advancement from existing vendors of cellphones because of where the current level of thinking of cellphone devices were at before Apple joined the fray.


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