When the iPhone debuted, it was widely criticized for having no buttons/keys. Now people think the iPhone’s design is “obvious.”
Well said and spot on, Dan! Before the first iPhone ever shipped the web was filled with predictions that Apple would fail in the ultra-competitive mobile handset business. Let's look back at a few.
On December 23, 2006, before the iPhone was formally introduced to the world, The Register's Billy Ray boldly declared:
As customers start to realise that the competition offers better functionality at a lower price, by negotiating a better subsidy, [iPhone] sales will stagnate. After a year a new version will be launched, but it will lack the innovation of the first and quickly vanish.
It appears Ray's idea of "quickly" will be measured in decades, not months or years.
On January 12, 2007, Businessweek's Steven Wildstrom wrote:
The iPhone may challenge some Treo, Windows Mobile, and Symbian (mostly Nokia) products, but its hardly a threat to BlackBerry.
On March 28, 2007, MarketWatch's John C. Dvorak opined:
These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.
With a grand total of more than 240 million iPhones sold worldwide and sales of each new iPhone model more than doubling the sales of the previous model, it appears Dvorak slightly missed the mark.
On April 30, 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was interviewed by USA Today's David Lieberman. Ballmer's prediction:
There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.
Oops, Mr. Ballmer! The iPhone currently has 63% market share with AT&T and 54% market share with Verizon. When you factor in the popular iPad and look at web market share, Apple's iOS grabs an astounding 65%! Interestingly, Android's web market share is a measily 1%! I wonder which platform web content creators are more likely to support?
And finally, on June 6, 2007, PC Magazine's Jim Louderback confidentally predicted:
It'll be mildly successful (like Apple's desktops and notebooks, which have a 5 percent market share), but not at the level of the RAZR or Nokia's popular phones.
Let's see, Google bought Motorola Mobility and recently announced layoffs, while Nokia is also struggling to compete. Both are casualties of Apple's confidence it could build a better mousetrap. Other handset makers are stuggling as well. And, by the way, Apple's Mac OS U.S. market share is up significantly, more than double the 5% Louderback quoted.
Those predictions are just a sample. There are many more to be found around the web. But back to Dan Frake's tweet.
Before the iPhone became a huge success, the very features that made it truly revolutionary were criticized and dismissed. During the iPhone's developement, none of those features were "obvious" to anyone other than the team at Apple charged with designing the device. But once the iPhone went on sale and became a sensation, other handset makers were caught with their slide-out keyboards heading for the scrapheap. It doesn't take much to imagine the sense of urgency—maybe even panic—that was felt in the boardrooms of competitors. An internal memo described a "crisis of design" at Samsung. Yet, court testimony revealed that Samsung spent just three months mimicking details of the iPhone's design. The San Jose jury found that Samsung was guilty of willfully violating Apple's patented designs and trade-dress on multiple models across the Samsung line. Worse, in addition to copying features of Apple's invention, Samsung had the gall to claim that some of the iPhone's features were so "obvious" they shouldn't be patentable.
If the features were so "obvious" to Samsung (or any other handset maker), why didn't they implement and patent them first?
No, it was Apple that gambled on revolutionizing the smartphone market. It was Apple that spent five years in development reinventing the wheel. It was Apple that spent millions of dollars bringing the dream to reality and legally patenting and protecting the technology. It was Apple that ignored the pre-2007 history of how mobile phones looked and functioned and designed something magical.
So, it is right and just that Apple's employees and shareholders are the ones to benefit and profit from Apple's vision and leadership. Most definitely not Samsung, or any other idea-copying Johnny-come-lately.
The Korea Times' Kim Yoo-chul has published an article that quotes a Samsung senior executive's reaction to the San Jose Jury verdict.
"It’s absolutely the worst scenario for us."
I'm finding it difficult to feel sorry for Samsung.