Life lessons from the smartphone wars

Speaking of change, the internets are abuzz with reports that competitors like RIM and Microsoft thought Apple was literally lying when it unveiled the iPhone back in January of 2007, believing that it was impossible to build a device like that with a usable battery life.

The iPhone “couldn’t do what [Apple was] demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life,” Shacknews poster Kentor heard from his former colleagues of the time. “Imagine their surprise [at RIM] when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it.”

Friends who were Microsoft employees at the time were also said to have had a similar reaction.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a lack of ability or resources that held RIM, Microsoft and the others back, giving Apple its opportunity to seize the smartphone market. It was a lack of imagination.

Something our governor and legislators should keep in mind as they head into this very bleak legislative session.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I’ve been saying for some time now in these comment threads that tax reform must come first, saving public services second. That’s because our upside-down tax system gouges those least able to pay so our state’s most affluent households can enjoy a virtually free ride. The working poor, who bear a wildly disproprortionate share of the tax burden, are tapped out and simply can’t pay any more of their meager incomes to the state. Yet, Gregoire, from her first campaign through the depths of this recession to the present, has steadfastly maintained that tax reform is off the table. Consequently, it was inevitable that she would preside over the most destructive dismantling of public services in our state’s history — and this virtually guarantees that she will go down in history as one of our worst governors. She blew it, on the one issue that mattered most to Washington citizens and her legacy.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I don’t blame Gregoire personally. This is the Peter Principle in operation. She was elevated beyond her abilities by well-meaning people who overestimated her talents, starting with Booth Gardner.

  3. 3


    Baited Hook?

    As usual, HaNevi Goldstein is worshipping in the Universal Church of Apple.

    I am sure there were many people who felt the iphone was a bum idea, but them folks were missing the MMM .. magical mystery of marketing.

    Battery life? Give me a break. The battery life issue for the iphone was that it, as well as other similar devices before and after it, consume(d) too much battery as compared with less smart devices that would go two to three days on a charge.

    Devices that could go a day were already around, though they were (and still are) tasked differently than the iphone.

    What the MMMM (magical Mystery Marketing Machine) of Jobs did was to design and sell something that would convince users to out up with a barely adequate battery life. The MMM also understood something no other phone maker had, until then, the idea of an integrated and closed market. LOTS folks today buy iphones, despite lousy service from ATT, BECAUSE of the apps. The apps, in turn exist because of the app store!

    The Winphone, in my opinion, can onloy beat Apple now in one of two ways:

    1. making a deal with the phone companies to allow customers to support TWO devices on a number .. a tablet and a phone. BOTH should function as phones!

    2. beating apple to the market with a tablet that is a fully functional net machine, not necessarily running windows, but integrated with Microsoft’s web services and Windows desktop.

    The same issue is raging now between the Kindle and the iPAD or Nook. For anyone wanting to read books there is a choice .. the (VERY) lightweight, long battery use, that can be read in almost any light, vs the much heavier, full color, Nook/iPAD market. De gustibus aside, the difference will be marketing.

    The REALLY sweatspot? … bundle all this with Amazon. Amazon beats any imaginable Apple (or MS) online market by a HUGE margin.

    Thus spoke the disputant to the prophet of Jobs.

  4. 4


    Q Roger

    I a agree totally.

    CG past her ability threshold a long time ago. While she seems to be well meaning, she is lacking in leadership skills.

    She should be working FOR a politician!

  5. 6

    lauramae spews:

    They do not have any imagination. For example, the governor’s take on what voters were actually voting for when the pop/candy tax and the income tax thing was defeated. She has said and the newspaper pundits have said “voters don’t want any new taxes.” Well, I think that is probably true for many of the ones brainwashed by conserva-think who believe that gov’t support of illegal aliens and imagined gov’t “bloat” can be cut to keep everything balanced. But for most Washington residents who voted for the initiative to abolish the pop/candy tax and against 1098, the truth is likely more complicated.

    When your problem is big enough that you could shut down each and every university, college and community college and STILL NOT CLOSE THE GAP, the size of the problem is way beyond simple cutting out what ever the favorite scapegoat might be.

    That it escaped her imagination, and more importantly, that of the legislative leadership in the State House and the Senate is even more alarming. The pop/candy tax was half-assed. It was meek. It was puny. It was explained poorly. So the initiative to abolish it was allowed to conflat things that had nothing to do with the pop tax and make people think that was also part of it. It didn’t help that the leg put all sorts of exemptions on the pop/candy tax like the addition of flour made the candy exempt. With that sort of horsehit, it was bound to end up being the case that not many people would actually understand what was actually taxed. It would be easy to fool people with the ads. And they did. Nevermind that NO ONE even would notice how much they paid in tax on any of it.

    But our legislature is stupid and I’m not sure what to say about the governor. The concept of fair-as in applying to all-seems to be one thing that motivates a lot of Washington voters (except for the addled few who like stepping on the little people for sport).

    That little whiner on the commercials for “belly timber” probably appealed to voters who saw her product taxed as candy as unfair to her. However, I doubt that the extreme sports people who buy “belly timber” cared that they paid a sales tax on her bars. The message was it hurt her business. I doubt that it affected her business at all.

    As for 1098, I’m not sure that most voters worried about also getting an income tax so much as the idea of voting for a select group to get income tax (that didn’t include themselves) might have felt weird and unfair. Who knows. I may be giving too much credit to the average WA voter.

    I think that there are quite a few voters who would approve of a structure that didn’t target such specific populations/products for the tax. It isn’t enough that these were the best things we had and so the “responsible” thing was to vote for them. But I think that they would be on board with some honest, full on tax reform.

    However, the politicians won’t do it. History indicates that they were only willing to stick out their baby toe for the pop/candy tax and they way over interpret the intent behind the defeat of 1098. Maybe it was how the revenue from 1098 was targeted, or the worry that the revenue wouldn’t have been as much as predicted, but the companion reduction in property tax would be a real cut.

    Voters approve increases in property tax all the damned time for their local school districts. They almost always pass. So voters are willing to tax themselves for things they understand. It is the job of the legislature and the governor to actually step up and be clear with her own leadership.

  6. 7


    6 – A similar tax on the wealthy was passed in OR without too much trouble IIRC…

    I think the WA voter bought the propaganda that “they were next”, but that’s just me.

    Funny that the voter who rejected Dino Rossi, voted against higher taxes that would be dedicated to the schools and would have given home and small business owners a little welcome tax relief. The ridiculous sales tax was left untouched by I-1098 – perhaps that had more to do with it.

    Well either fear or resentment ruled the day back in November. I’m just thankful the voters didn’t hand it all over to a crappy Republican Party in this state – an abomination compared to the party of Dan Evans.

  7. 8


    1098 was not sold well fro two reasons …

    1. Feckless politicians (Gregoire, Cantwell, being number 1 and 2) showed NO leadership.

    2. It was sold stupidly as a new tax on the rich rather than as a tax reduction/fairness effort for the middle class

  8. 10


    @ 9. David Tatelman

    And this is why Apple is now the second largest company in America, by capitalization anyway. Despite SJ’s protestations to the contrary.

    What protestations to the contrary?

    Apple is a GREAT marketing company. They have succeeded in making a,lot of money our of packaging and advertising. They combine these with great design.

    I am not knocking nay of these, after all the same sort of thing has driven Fox news to its prominence, marketing!

    What ticks me off is when apple fans invent or reinvent history. Apple did NOT:

    1. introduce the first practical PC.*
    2. introduce the first disk drives to a pc.*
    3. introduce the use of windows*
    4. introduce the first notebook*
    5. invent the first way for users to directly interact with a PC
    6. invent the PDA*
    8. invent the intertubes*
    7. invent the smart phone or overturn the battery issue.
    8. introduce the first user-addressible PC*
    9. invent power point.*
    10. invent the speadsheet
    11. invent practical voice recognition*
    12. invent the mp3 player*
    13.invent the device free motion sensor*

    That does not mean they have done nothing in the area of invention. They did:

    1. popularize and market the mouse
    2. popularize the and sell the GUI.
    3. invent the proprietary music/video store
    4. design and market the first practical pocket computer (aka iphone).

    All these PALE besides their marketing miracles ..

    selling Visicalc
    selling mice to run on a tiny screen
    selling notebooks at 2 or 3 times the prices of their competitors
    design of the iphone AND its store

  9. 11

    What do you expect spews:

    @10 #4 isn’t true.

    USRobotics/3COM/Palm developed the first mass market usable pocket computer, the Palm Pilot. At the TIME it was a good device (pre-internet) that worked as a little pocket computer. Even doing email. It had THOUSANDS of “apps” too! Nothing new there.

    All Apple did, like always, it make it pretty. And partially useless. Can’t print out of the box. Can’t view a huge chunk of the internet because Jobs has a pissing match over Flash. The iPhone is a great toy, good game machine (it’s best feature), passable web browser (because of lack of standards support), and good email reader. And it’s pretty. It’s battery life is ok. Great? Eh. The Kindle can go for WEEKS without charging. My old Palm Pilot could go for a week without charging. My previous “smart’ish” phone the Treo could go for days. So it’s not THAT impressive. Just shinny.

    Nothing new. Nothing terribly innovative. It’s is BEAUTIFUL industrial design and GREAT marketing! It’s exactly 61.68% as good as you think it is. :)

  10. 12


    @11 What do you expect

    Odd to be defending apple BUT ..

    I agree with you that Palm was LONG before the iPHONE but the iPhone, I think, was the first real fusion of pocket software, the internet, and a telephone. Not any one of these were new, but the package + apples MMMM were, I think unique.

    In contrast, Palm .. a much better pocket PC, failed to market well. The Pre is a lot better device than the iPHONE BUT .. they were very late to figure out to get there app store up and running and still have not really taken advantage of their great interface.

    Palm also was forst with a PDA and beat Apple’s pants with its graffiti input system. If Palm had an MMMM we wold all be using graffiti now nstead of fuckin away at touch screen keypads.

    On another front. for all the hype about design. Sony, Toshiba, and Lenovo regularly have much cooler notebook designs but never market like Jobs.

    My favorite thous is Apple’s insistence on a one ball hung low mouse! The result is that SW written in Mac style is awfully keyboard centric! Irony!!!

  11. 13

    Glenno spews:


    The Dem’s have been saying what MS & RIM said for the last 20 years…Now WA ST is $6 Billion in the hole and the China is the banker for the US Government!

    Merry CHRISTmas

  12. 14

    rob spews:

    My favorite thous is Apple’s insistence on a one ball hung low mouse! The result is that SW written in Mac style is awfully keyboard centric!

    There are mice with more than one ball? And how is Mac software any more kybd-centric than Windows or *nix software? Examples, please.

  13. 15

    BeerNotWar spews:

    Oregon raised an already existing tax on the wealthy, which is much easier than creating a new tax specifically to target upper incomes.
    To get an income tax passed in Washington you need to combine what 1098 did in taxing only high incomes, with a reduction in the sales tax.

    Even if it’s revenue-neutral it’s stimulative because people with low incomes will spend more due to the lower sales tax. But optimally it would increase revenue to support increases in state services.

  14. 16


    14 rob …

    the balls were a joke. Since laser sensors only antiques like SJ have any balls. Mine is a trackball.

    The metaphor was to Apple’s tradition of a single ear rather than two more four, as on all PC mice.

    As a result, software that originated in mac world (photoshop) lacked right ear dependent context menus and still show this heritage in a large number of command key operations (e.g selecting a resizable object). Apple’s commitment to natural interfaces also meant that software originating in that world often lacked a built in help system. Again, this is a defect in most Adobe products even though they are now written for the Windows interface.

    Of course this tradition has changed since most major SW is now written in a style that is based on the Window interface and its two eared mouse.

    Nonetheless, Apple still insists on one eared mice and anyone who want to sell SW on that platform must think about how to deal with this aspect of Appledom.

    Imagine the hype if MS had first introduced t=a mouse with one ear and Steve Jobs, had invented the second ear!

    Marketing is all.

  15. 17

    doggril spews:

    What a ridiculous comparison. Tech companies don’t have to deal with multi-billion dollar efforts to manipulate public opinion designed to tie their hands. They don’t have to answer to the public on every decision they make. (Yes, their result is judged by the public, but their process isn’t open to inspection–and second-guessing–and poking–and challenge– at every step. That’s a whole different ballgame.) And, even then, it’s not like the best product always wins (remember betamax?)
    Fact of the matter, if you compare Washington state against the others, you see that we’re at the top of the rankings on all sorts of important measures. Washington state, over the past few years anyway, has ranked near the top of every best-run-state list I’ve seen.
    I know that among the unclever it feels clever to call Gregoire a “peter principle” governor (because, hey, THAT phrase is never used for politicians); but it’s hard to figure out how the state can do so well with such an “incompetent” at the top.
    I don’t like all the decisions that come out of Olympia; but I’m also sick and tired of people who know little more than what the headlines tell them about what’s happening in government calling Gregoire “stupid”–in this case, apparently, because she can’t pull an iPhone out of her ass.

  16. 18


    @17 doggril

    At least speaking for myself, you are missing the point.

    Gregoire is a good job as an administrator and well intentioned.

    I also agree that WAstate does rank well and she deserves some credit.

    However, her job is not (just) to be the Chief Operating Officer of WAstate.

    Gregoire’s peter principle is in politics, especially the sort of leadership that galvanizes a party.

    Despite inheriting a very strong economy and a leftish state, no one sees her as the leader of the Washington State Democratic party or the progressive community. She does work for “us,” but she does not lead us.

    Several democrats outrank her in this role, starting with Senator Murry. Others that have stringer voices than hers include Norm Dicks, Jay Insley, Adam Smith, Ef Murry, and Frank Chop (inter alia). Even Maria Cantwell, perhaos because of her job, outdoes the guv.

  17. 19

    rob spews:

    SJ @ 16,

    you evidently don’t use Macs, so let me correct a few misconceptions:

    1) Macs have always (since System 1) supported contextual menus. You had to use to the mouse in conjunction with the keyboard, which supports your “keyboard centric” assertion, but negates your assertion that software written for Macs somehow needs to work around something.

    2) Apple introduced a Help system with System 7.5, in 1994. This was open to any software developer to use, they just had to include files for it. Prior to that, many programs included their own help files. If Adobe has chosen not to include some form of help in their software by now, it has nothing to do with the fact that Photoshop was originally released as Mac only software.

    3) Apple has never “insisted” on a one button mouse. There have been many third party mice with multiple buttons available for Macs, though they required their own drivers to provide functionality for the additional buttons. Right clicks have worked without third party software since the first version of OS X, in 2000. And Apple hasn’t sold a one button mouse since 2005. So again, there is nothing for any software developer to work around, for at least the last ten years.

    Hope this clears things up a little.

  18. 20

    Xar spews:


    Just a point of clarification on 3)–most Apple mice still only have one button, but it’s a touch sensitive one that provides different functionality depending on which side you press. That might explain some of the confusion–I know the first time I picked up a Mighty Mouse I was pretty confused when touching the right side opened a contextual menu.