The Day After 7.11.2008 – When Apple Failed

Yesterday, 7.11.2008, is day that shall be remember as the day that Apple missed the mark with the iPhone 2.0 launch. In an attempt to do a world wide single day launch extravaganza, the demand caused Apple’s servers to crash and left many current iPhone users hoping to upgrade in the dust and would-be owners to come home empty handed, or worse, with the phone but not activated.

Let’s see what went wrong

  1. Apple chose to launch the iPhone 3G worldwide – In a massive launch date and celebratory fashion, the new iPhone was going to be launched in more countries than before and even with more anticipation.
  2. Apple released the App store earlier than the iPhone 2.0 firmware upgrade – Users were able to browse through the App store, and even purchase apps, but were left waiting for the firmware upgrade. The firmware was actually leaked the day before and a few brave souls actually successfully upgraded.
  3. Both iPhone and 3G iPhone users were competing to upgrade at the same time – For the iPhone owners who chose not to upgrade to the 3G iPhone, they could upgrade to the 2.0 firmware. In order to do so however, the iTunes had to wipe the phone, install the software, and reactivate the phone. That’s where the catch lied. Not only did the the lines of 3G iPhone buyers had to activate their new phones, the millions of current iPhone owners upgrading their software were forced to activate their phones, all at the same time.
  4. Everything launching occurred within the 24-48 hour window of time – As we all know, Apple customers are fanatics. They’re not going to wait unti next week when the lines die down to buy, they want it now. For current iPhone users, they wanted it six months ago when Steve Jobs first announced the new software enhancements and the App Store.

What Could Have Happened

  1. Phase the Launch of the 3G iPhone – Rather than release the 3G iPhone to so many countries all at once, Apple could have devised a slow roll out plan. However, that would have left potential customers angry and continue to put pressures on illegal exporting of unactivated phones.
  2. Release the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade a month after the 3G iPhone launch – Current iPhone users would not be competing with the 3G iPhone activations during the 24 hour period. This is after Apple decided to cut the iPhone from $499 to $399 and then created a better and faster phone for $199. *Slap to the face*
  3. Release the iPhone 2.0 software before the 3G iPhone launch – The flip alternative to option 2 would have been to “thank” the loyal iPhone customers with a sneek preview of the 2.0 software and App Store, creating hype around the new iPhone. However, thinking with an evil marketing and business development mindset, that would have reduced the number of iPhone upgrades. After installing my new 2.0 software on my 1st generation iPhone, I’m satisified with what I have. There’s no more desire to upgrade for 3G and GPS.

What Next

After the dust settles and the techies at Apple are working full steam ahead, we’ll look back and say that the launch, while full of problems, was a success. In fact, the whole blogosphere, twitter streams, and  social media was clogged full of iPhone stories. The last 48 hours would have been extremely annoying for Blackberry owners or anyone who didn’t care for the iPhone. For everyone else, it was fun to see such excitement in traditional media and in the blogosphere.

It will take some time to determine the true success of the iPhone, and what alternatives will be coming out of Apple’s pipeline. Will there be a smaller “mini-iPhone?” What about a flip phone? What about a tablet iPhone? Will enterprises be quick to adopt the iPhone as the de-facto standard, or will the Blackberry continue to reign dominance?

In my next post, I’ll review the iPhone App store, focusing particularly on Application “spam.” How will Apple control the number of Apps available, specifically reducing the number of useless apps?

Published by Daniel Hoang

Daniel Hoang is a visual leader, storyteller, and creative thinker. As an experienced management consultant, he believes in a big picture approach that includes strong project leadership, creative methods, change management, and strategic visioning. He uses a range of visual tools to communicate business challenges, solutions, and goals. His change strategy is to build "tribes" of supporters and evangelists to drive change in culture and organization. Daniel is an avid technologist and futurist and early adopter.

6 thoughts on “The Day After 7.11.2008 – When Apple Failed

  1. Apple's iPhone 2.0 & MobileMe can be compared to Boeing's 787 Airplane Program. Both are not only "Game Changers" but are "Quantum Leaps"!!!

  2. I'm not a fanatic, and I am also an Apple Customer.

    So your statement that Apple customers are fanatics is false.

  3. YYAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNNNNN …

    The next time you do a project that's 1E-9 as complex as the MobileMe, iPhone 3G – directed worldwide, mind you – give me a call so I can critique you.

    Yes. Heh.

  4. @Viswakarma – I agree. Apple has taken the horrible experience of using the Internet on regular phones and made an Internet device that also makes calls.

    @James – The statement was a broad generalization. Not all Apple "customers" are fanatics, however, Apple customers tend to be very loyal to their products.

    @pabugeater – At the end of the long post, I mentioned that in the end, after all this settles, we'll look back and realize that the launch was a success. It generated a lot more publicity and if everything went along smoothly. And yes, the worldwide launch and coordination is incredibly complex and expecting perfection is unrealistic. That said, Apple may have taken a bigger bite than it can swallow.

  5. Everyone seems to forget the problems with the original launch. I bought the iPhone on July 3, 2007 and it wasn't fully activated until July 7, 2008. So a one day delay is much better than the previous launch. People forget with time as this shows.

  6. @James – You're right. In fact, after the weekend was over, people were up and running and soon will be enjoying fast 3G network connections and GPS apps.

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