iPhone turns 5: Here are the naysayers

Everyone is writing about the iPhone’s birthday today and how much it changed the industry. That’s all true, but I thought I’d take a different approach and look at some of the iPhone naysayers so we could make fun of them together. This list was actually compiled in 2008 by MacDailyNews, but here are a few of my favorites.

November 16, 2006, Palm CEO, Ed Colligan

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

December 07, 2006, CNET, Michael Kanellos

“Apple is slated to come out with a new phone… And it will largely fail…. Sales for the phone will skyrocket initially. However, things will calm down, and the Apple phone will take its place on the shelves with the random video cameras, cell phones, wireless routers and other would-be hits… When the iPod emerged in late 2001, it solved some major problems with MP3 players. Unfortunately for Apple, problems like that don’t exist in the handset business. Cell phones aren’t clunky, inadequate devices. Instead, they are pretty good. Really good.”

December 08, 2006, Morningstar analyst, Rod Bare

“The economics of something like [an Apple iPhone] aren’t that compelling.”

January 15, 2007, Bloomberg, Matthew Lynn

“The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant… Apple is unlikely to make much of an impact on this market… Apple will sell a few to its fans, but the iPhone won’t make a long-term mark on the industry.”

January 17, 2007, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer

“[Apple’s iPhone] is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it not a very good email machine… So, I, I kinda look at that and I say, well, I like our strategy. I like it a lot.”

January 18, 2007, Microsoft Senior Marketing Director, Richard Sprague

“I can’t believe the hype being given to iPhone… I just have to wonder who will want one of these things (other than the religious faithful)… So please mark this post and come back in two years to see the results of my prediction: I predict they will not sell anywhere near the 10M Jobs predicts for 2008.”

  • Snicker

    • Michael Long

      Agreed. But he missed the best one…

      “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.” – Ed Colligan, Palm CEO, November 16, 2006

  • “the iPhone is going to be a bigger marketing flop than Ishtar and Waterworld combined.” http://t.co/FJmUXwR2

    • Guest

      That article is a great example of writers to ignore. Not the ones the got it wrong, but the ones that backpedaled and refused to admit they were wrong.

      • The best response is from Dvorak who (a) blames Apple for forcing him to be wrong, and (b) argues that time may yet prove him right!

        • “time may yet prove him right”

          Of course it will. I will bet everything I own and will ever own that Apple will sell zero iPhones in the year 3007.

          • DanTheMan827

            you’re right, by then it will be the EyePhone

      • Writers to ignore?

        He is citing Balmer… Microsoft’s CEO; Colligan… Palm’s CEO; Sprague… Microsoft’s somebody…

        OK, we can avoid the writer!

        • Aeron

          We can ignore the writer and the sources all together. Saves time.

          • Ncav8tor

            Yeah saves time but that is not as valuable to me as the “entertainment” value of what these people do and say.

  • Add me to the list. I was a non-believer for v1 but v2 opened my eyes. 😀

    • Ted_T

      ??? How? The iPhone 3G was essentially identical to the original iPhone — the addition 3G radio and GPS hardware were the only relevant differences. In its infancy AT&T’s 3G network was barely distinguishable from Edge and the original iPhone already had location services, so the addition of GPS hardware (there was no turn by turn software at the time) made little difference.

      • App Store.

        • Ted_T

          The App Store had nothing to do with hardware — the original iPhone ran it just as well as the 3G when it was introduced. Indeed I still use my original iPhone as a universal remote running various remote control apps.

          And it was obvious it was coming a long time before the iPhone 3G release — Apple announced the iPhone SDK months earlier.

          • Who said it did? When apps hit, v2 of the phone, I got one.

            I could care less if 1 could run it or not. I believed at that time.

          • RF9

            I’m right there with you. I thought the orig. iPhone was too expensive at $700 and the fact that it was WebApps only I simply dismissed it. If I recall, Apple said Web apps was all need and it wasn’t apparent at the time whether or not they’d ever support native apps. People seem to forget that. It wasn’t until the successful jailbreak black market was so successful that they saw what they were missing and opened up the app store…. which by the way was the reason for the success of the iPhone along with carrier subsidies bringing it down to $200. Prior to that it was just a slick UI on an expensive phone that ran webapps. I too dismissed it on those grounds.

            No way it would be successful without native apps and exchange email support and certainly not until the price came down.

            But when the 3G came out and iPhone os 2.0 it answered all of my criticisms including the main ones: Contract subsidy 3G Exchange push support Native apps (app store) which by the way they did right, even I saw the genius in the way they implemented it. On other platforms getting apps on Win, Palm, and Blackberry was a real pain and upgrading was a disaster.

            Prior to all of that I also thought the iPhone left a lot to be desired. But since the iPhone 3G.. I’ve had every one since and never looked back. And I still prefer it even to the latest Android phones.

          • I agree fully until that last statement. 🙂

          • RF9

            I’m not saying iPhone is better :). I’m just saying I prefer it for my use, today. I used a Glaxy Nexus with 4.0 for about 2 weeks and I just didn’t see that I gained anything by switching. Maybe if I was coming to iPhone/Android for the first time I’d choose Android, but at this point I’d be switching (which is disruptive) and I don’t see the gain. Things bother me about both platforms but I’m pretty happy with iOS. Apple doesn’t seem to be keeping up with Android’s iterations and what I see with jellybean has me thinking that Apple had better setup up it’s game in the next year or it’ll be time to swich.


      • addicted

        But the iPhone 3G came with the App Store. I would guess that is what changed John’s opinion.

        The fact is that the original iPhone wasn’t as much of a revolution per se. It was a revolutionary, and significantly better interface, but what made the iPhone a complete market bender was that it made phones mobile computers.

        Now, this was already evident in the original iPhone (note Apple’s multiple references to how they leveraged OSX. But it wasn’t until the second iPhone OS that Apple made this vision explicit. Those in the jailbreak community, and those who knew how Apple operates, could easily predict Apple’s plans from the original iPhone OS, but it is not surprising that those who did not closely follow Apple needed to wait until iOS 2 to see the direction the iPhone would be taking.

      • Douglas

        v2 opened my eyes because I could actually buy it – v1 was US only.

        • tyr

          Everyone that went to the US (and later on the UK which also has the v1) brought back iPhones to the EU if they could, once the iPhone had been jailbroken so they could be unlocked. I think they were quite a lot of people who made some nice cash on those grey imports.

    • Boltar

      Yeah, but I bet you were smart enough not to publish your predictions of doom and, as an extra little flourish, ask readers to come back in a few years and check your predictions. I think we’ve all been mistaken about tech products before, and I might write that I don’t see how a particular product will survive, but the hubris of some of these guys is amazing. And entertaining.

      • Oh no, I only said I didn’t think it’d be a huge hit ’cause of the keyboard but we’ll see. My buddy Mike told me it wasn’t too bad, after he got one, and v2 caught my eye majorly (coming from a Nokia N95).

      • This is what is so galling about most of the naysaying comments. It wasn’t just that they didn’t think the phone would do well; cautious criticism of any radical launch is common. It’s the strident, dismissive and arrogant assertions dressed as statements of fact that the iPhone simply will not and could not make an impact on the market. Worse when the criticism of the iPhone was based on glowing descriptions of the then current mobile phone market, an abysmal collection of consumer hating garbage that existed nowhere else.

        “Hubris” is indeed a perfect description of the failing of almost all of the naysayers.

  • D. Ebdrup

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

    • tca

      He probably was right. In 1943 coud by that high. I don’t see where he said demand will not grow in future.

      • I don’t have the quote memorized, but the British postmaster general made a similar comment about the telephone, suggesting that it was only successful in the US owing to a lack of messenger boys.

    • A computer in 1943 was as big as a house.

  • Ambrose Chapel

    Plus the reaction of RIM – albeit disclosed by an insider and not in public – that the iPhone was literally not possible given its stated battery life. heh.

  • Microsoft now sporting one of the many variants of the iPhone via Nokia.

    Ballmer just doesn’t have a clue does he? How is he still CEO?

    • Zac Caslin

      Developers developers developers

      • deviladv

        Advertisers Advertisers Advertisers Advertisers.

        And high velocity chairs.

      • Harvard Irving

        “Developers developers developers”

        Who are all moving to iOS iOS iOS.

    • Dan Andersen

      Leave Steve alone–he’s the best! May he remain Microsoft CEO as long as it takes…

    • Matthew Paul

      Sorry, ‘one of the many variants of the iPhone via Nokia’? And that would be which Nokia?

  • And the Slate tablet will revolutionize everything just like the iPhone has not!

  • Some comments were pretty good too, on the last article for instance.

  • Ballmer has since learned that phones do not need keyboards. Tablets, however; tablets need keyboards!

    Keyboards! Keyboards! Keyboards!

    And trackpads!

    • Keyboards are easier to make than good apps.

    • I have to laugh at this. We’ll come back to this in 2 years and add your comment to the list of fail.

      • Dan Andersen

        (Gnome, I believe Paul’s comment was made tongue-in-cheek.)

  • The headline for this post makes me wish someone could get Richard Dreyfuss to do a “Crazy Ones” commercial parody.

  • To be fair, the original iPhone was sold at $499 and $599 with no subsidy available. The amount of market that opened up due to the lower price point later on has proven to be quite the game changer as well. Anything pointed at not understanding the technical innovation, though, is well deserved.

    Also, reading Richard Sprague’s post brings back so many memories… Too bad he closed the comments on his post after only a year. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sprague/archive/2007/01/18/java.aspx

  • “And I guess some of these stocks went down on the Apple announcement, thinking that Apple could do no wrong, but I think Apple can do wrong and I think this is it.” ” – Dvorak

    That is some serious claim chowder.

  • Looks like Sprague has been forced to eat his crow 100 million times over. Woopsie.

  • So delish.

  • bowerbird

    you know what’s really funny?

    a lot of those people are still considered to be “experts”…


  • matthewmaurice

    Every time I read Ballmer saying “So, I, I kinda look at that and I say, well, I like our [Windows smartphone] strategy. I like it a lot.” And then look at where Microsoft is in the smartphone market I wonder why he still has a job.

  • People who believe we need CD media, Flash, keyboards etc. are the laggards of IT and Business who are incapable of thinking different, seeing and embracing change, and nowadays surviving in the world of ever changing technology.

  • Aaron

    Read on an iPhone 4S.

    Keep up the great work.

  • jd

    Ballmer’s full quote, right before this one starts, specifically referred to the original pricing strategy for the iPhone, which wasn’t subsidized and was really expensive. I don’t think anyone can fault Ballmer for saying that was too much to pay, and I don’t think anyone really thinks the iPhone would’ve been the success it has been if they had stuck with that initial pricing.

    • Harvard Irving

      Maybe, but you’re ignoring how spectacularly wrong he was about the physical keyboard.

      Also, there were plenty of really expensive Windows Mobile phones back then. There’s also the huge amount of fail in how he thinks the winning business strategy is to sell an OS to third-party manufacturers.

  • Nangka777

    it’ll be interesting to know what the person who brought us the iphone thought about it 5 years on..

  • It’s pretty incredible how spot on the original vision was. There was no ‘back to the drawing board’ moment other than rethinking carrier subsidies and lowering the price. Having lost my iPhone 4 a month ago, I dusted off my original iPhone and am using it today. In fact, I’m posting from it now!

  • JohnDoey

    Ballmer OMG.

  • L’iPhone fête ses 5 ans : relire l’avis des analystes et spécialistes à l’epoque est pour le moins… Instructif 😉

  • John Gault

    Well, that marketing director was correct. Apple didn’t sell anywhere near 10 million phones in two years. 🙂

  • Actually, when Apple announced the price of the iPhone, it was a crazily over comparison of the smartphones market at the time.

    So, I don’t disagree with “some” people who just said it will fail -As Predict-. Back to the time I would say it will fail, because it was lack HUGE and IMPORTANT features with over priced!

    • David_SC


  • Santanu

    Hi Jim, is there any way to find their recent views on the iPhone?

  • nice collection……..