Are iPad Skeptics as Wrong as iPhone Naysayers Were?

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A month ago, before any of us knew anything for sure about Apple’s tablet, I looked back at the period before any of us knew anything for sure about Apple’s phone. It turned out that about 95% of the speculation and rumors about the iPhone had nothing to do with the device that Apple actually announced at Macworld Expo in January of 2007.

Now that we know quite a bit about the iPad, a massive rush to judgment is already underway, with pundits predicting everything from historic success to epic failure. Which led me to wonder: How accurate were the first predictions that got made about the iPhone’s fate? So I went back and read scads of stories from the first couple of weeks after the phone’s announcement.

Overall, they weren’t bad. Lots of pundits said it was a landmark product with the potential to transform the phone business. But there were plenty of dissenting opinions, too. This article is devoted to them.

I’m not dredging up these stories to mock anyone. For one thing, some of them make reasonable arguments about the original iPhone’s limitations; it’s just that the phone managed to thrive despite them. For another, I thought that famous flop the G4 Cube would be an influential hit, and am therefore in no position to taunt anyone for making inaccurate forecasts about Apple products. I’m doing this because I think reviewing iPhone predictions is a useful exercise as we think about the future of the iPad.

A quick executive summary of some of the issues that writers most often brought up as evidence that the iPhone was headed for failure:

  • Price: Many skeptics correctly noted that the iPhone’s starting price of $499 was a lot of money for a phone.
  • Lack of apps: Naysayers reasonably criticized the phone for its lack of support for third-party applications.
  • Not businessy enough. A phone that pricey needed stuff like Exchange support, the doubters pointed out.
  • Cingular: The fact that the iPhone was only available on Cingular–which changed its name to AT&T Wireless before the iPhone shipped–was supposed to be a major problem.
  • Entrenched competitors: How was Apple going to compete with the Nokias and RIMs and Microsofts of the phone world?
  • Missing features: No keyboard? No removable battery?
  • Hey, Apple is a cult: Those who squawk about Apple products often throw in a reference or two to mindless fanboys who’ll snap up anything Steve Jobs instructs them to buy. (I wonder what percentage of a specific market Apple must hold before everyone involved agrees it’s silly to describe its customers as cultish?)

As it turned out, none of these factors killed the iPhone, and some of them eventually went away. The iPhone was too expensive, too limited in apps, and not enough of a business tool to succeed? A year after the first iPhone went on sale, the iPhone 3G arrived–a $199 phone with an App Store and Exchange support.

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