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BLOG: The iPhone Apple was forced to make

j.ello | Sept. 19, 2012
I have no doubt that the iPhone 5 is a great phone and will set sales records. It's just uninteresting. So uninteresting, in fact, that it's interesting.

Don't get me wrong here, I have no doubt that it's a great phone and will set sales records. It's just uninteresting. So uninteresting, in fact, that it's interesting. Apple is transitioning from a cult of personality that knew how to sell inspiration into something not quite "that," and that transition may be playing into this.

Apple's (modern) business model has depended on establishing new isolated markets, not surviving in crowded ones. What we have in the iPhone 5 is a defensive posture -- Apple simply had to get a new phone out, now. Google has been getting its Android house in order, wooing weary iPhone users with newer, bigger, faster things. And then there's the specter of Windows Phone 8.

You may laugh, but don't count Microsoft out of the hunt yet. Sure, Microsoft has done one incalculably stupid thing by forcing the tile interface on an angry desktop customer base that DOES. NOT. WANT. IT. But in the grand scheme of things, it knows that the days of physical mouse and keyboard dominance are coming to a close. As gambles go, I'd say it's a good one, but let's just say I would have gone with a more nuanced approach.

Being fanatically pragmatic, I am fascinated by, if not a little envious of, those who are swayed by pure intangibles. Having previously been a Mac user for many years, I recognize both the echo chamber within as well as the defensiveness often displayed to those outside. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, so long as the company can continue to inspire such a culture. So, after a long wait, Apple releases an unremarkable iPhone during a lull in top-tier Androids, and a month before Microsoft starts begging customers to think different-er. Getting existing customers back into a two-year contract, where they will be unlikely to look over the garden walls, is a wise strategy. But it's just a strategy, notably lacking in inspiration or ethos, the things that make Apple -- well, not everyone else. Inertia will sell the iPhone 5, but the last time Apple had to rely on inertia was the '90s, when it tanked.

I appreciate having hard choices to make between competitive products. I've always found Apple products appealing and worth a serious look. I'm just not seeing the draw of the iPhone 5, and considering how long it took to show up, I'm wondering whether Apple is out of ideas or out of passion. If Apple has been reduced to just getting something out the door, that doesn't speak well to its confidence level. The next couple of release cycles will be very interesting.



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