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How Steve Jobs blew his iPhone keynote

Premature announcement hurts Apple

By Mike Elgan
January 18, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Steve Jobs' blockbuster keynote address at last week's Macworld was brilliantly and powerfully delivered -- one of his best ever. It was also a colossal mistake.

The keynote certainly looked familiar -- the famous jeans and black turtleneck, the black background and giant screen. But Jobs did something unique with this speech: He announced, in detail, a major new product six months before its expected availability. Apple's famous formula, successfully applied to dozens of iPod models, Macs and operating system rollouts, keeps details secret until products are ready to ship.

Sure, Jobs did the same thing -- sort of -- when he preannounced Apple TV back in September. But that speech lacked product details or even the correct brand name. Last week's iPhone keynote was the first in Apple's history in which a major new product line was unveiled in detail long before its actual ship date.

I think Jobs blew it. Here are my six reasons why:

1. Jobs raised buyer expectations too high.

Jobs' keynote speech was so highly visible that it reached deeply into popular culture, with late-night talk show hosts joking about it, Saturday Night Live parodying it and all manner of amateur video makers creating spoofs about it. These pop-culture references seemingly all exaggerated and mocked the idea that iPhone does everything.

However, the opposite is true: The iPhone, despite its many media-oriented virtues and its sweet design, will do far less than most existing smart phones. The problem Apple now faces because of Jobs' premature detail-oriented announcement is that of dashed expectations. When customers expect more and don't get it, they become dissatisfied.

What doesn't iPhone do? Unlike most smart phones, the iPhone doesn't have voice dialing, voice memos, 3G Internet access, Word or Excel support, one-handed operation or video recording. It can't be used as a laptop modem. The battery can't be replaced. It doesn't support removable storage. The calendar, task list and e-mail won't sync with Microsoft Outlook.

As a media player, the screen is big and the interface is undeniably cool. But storage limitations will seriously annoy people when they actually try to use the thing. Consider this: The operating system by itself will reportedly use about half a gigabyte. Add the included applications plus personal data such as contacts, all your songs, album art (to take advantage of the music browsing feature) and maybe a dozen or so podcast subscriptions, and at least 2GB will be used before any movies are loaded. Movies available on iTunes range from just under 1GB to just over 2GB. There's not a lot of space left for video.

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