Okay, so there are loads of articles these days that claim to know why the iPhone is doing so well. Like this one. You can always tell an article's going to be a real doozy when the author pours her heart and soul into the prose. I started to fall asleep about here: "Since I began blogging about youth marketing in 2004, I have read a lot of studies that list teens' favorite brands. Apple is inevitably at the top of every brand list." Yawn. I just told my secretary to call Business Week and find out where this person went to college so I can make sure my kids never go there.
Anyway. I figured I'd write a little something of my own about the best cellphone in the world. You know, like Larry does iPhone. Or something.
Okay, so first. It's the brand name, stupid. Say that over and over until you're convinced you understand it. Because really, the device is like nine parts name and one part phone. Why else would people line up to buy a phone they had never seen before? Why else would Steve go to such bold and brash lengths to steal the name from Cisco? And how else could Apple have repositioned the entire cellular phone market? "iPhone." It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? I mean, who in their right mind would buy a RAZR or Nokia 6035zv590 when they could buy the iPhone? Nobody would. This simple, easy-to-say name has brought coherence and stability to a sea of terrible sounding cell phone names. There's the iPhone, and then there's everything else. And everybody knows that everything else sucks. The phones must suck, or they wouldn't have shitty sounding names.
Next, you need to understand something that's both very simple and complicated at the same time. Perception is reality. That's it. What people believe, is real for them. Listen, do you really think Steve had a working iPhone at Macworld Expo? He didn't. I was there -- I saw the vaporphone. It didn't work then, and it didn't work until the middle of June. I know because that's when I got mine. What Steve was selling at Macworld was the idea of a phone. The actual phone didn't matter at all -- it was what people thought and believed about the phone that mattered. And most of the time, ideas are more powerful than the actual products. People can take ideas and shape them and build them in their heads. That's why Steve only released the idea of the phone and not the actual phone itself. In fact, it would have been a disaster to release the phone at Macworld. People never would have bought it then.
The actual device didn't matter much at all. I mean, don't get me wrong here -- it's a great phone and I love it. But the main thing is the brand name and the customer's perception that he's getting a ground-breaking phone. In fact, customers would have understood if their iPhones didn't work exactly the way they should have at first. Because it's a first generation product, users expect glitches and bugs. That was the allure of having one of the first iPhones -- most customers want to help debug the device and be a part of the street iPhone QC team. These people are actually doing Apple's job for them, for free. And they're paying bucko bucks to do it.
There's nothing new about any of this, of course. I've done it at Oracle for about 30 years now. We sold vaporware databases to hundreds of customers, and they loved every table and every entry. You know why? Because Oracle is a great brand name and they bought the idea of a database, not the actual database itself. Apple just took that concept and applied it to hardware, which was brilliant. And sure, the device is pretty good. It's not as ground-breaking as people make it out to be, but it's functional and grandmothers can use it.
So there you go, people. You've heard it from the horse's mouth. And if you read this stuff in Business Week in a month or so, just remember where you heard it first, okay?