Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29 (This Day in Business History--A Turning Point or Footnote?)

August 9, 1995: Netscape goes public with its IPO
August 24, 1995: Windows95 is launched.
These dates have important significance in business history--at least viewed from an information technology and business strategy perspectives.
June 29, 2007: iPhone is launched..

In about five years (say 2012), will we look back on this date and remark that Apple revolutionized the communication and entertainment landscape or will it be a footnote in business history? All indications are that this will be marked as a critical point in history-whether Apple maintains its lead or not. The design will be imitated more; multi-touch may be more prevalent; and the business model of cooperation between handset makers and network operators may be more widespread.

We will know later today how the public reacts to the product and the service. More important than the product design elegance will be the initial reaction to the service quality that depends on AT&T network (I am keeping my fingers crossed). Pundits have mostly been enthusiastic about their initial tests--David Pogue of New York Times gives it a glowing rating (with caveats about AT&T's potential network limitations; Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal is also positive about it. Soon, we will get initial reactions from the die-hard Apple enthusiasts who have been camping outside Apple stores all across the country.
So, what am I looking to track in the initial phase? Not the sales (that's a given; it will be sold out for sure) but the level of enthusiasm in the blogosphere; the number of complaints about poor AT&T network coverage; and the frustrations users have about the differential service levels across WiFi and cellular networks.

June 29, 2007. I see the launch of iPhone as a product that straddles different industry boundaries in the spirit of network-era competition; I see it as a new way to co-create value involving network of partners (in this case Apple and AT&T initially; apparently, Verizon had their initial chance but rejected it). I also see it as a strong reflection of Steve Jobs' approach to stick with relatively closed architecture and go counter to the conventional wisdom that calls for more open architecture. It is more than an important date for Apple; it may signal a new era of network-era strategy and competition and cooperation. There will be many moves and counter-moves as this gets played out over the next few months and years.

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