Normally, what Michael says most of the time is spot on -- I'm a big fan, and pay close attention to what he writes. I'll admit his coverage of MacWorld has me a little bit baffled, as he seems to be caught in the echo chamber that is created by Apple for the Jobs keynote -- something I don't usually find him doing. Some examples...
In Macworld - Apple Says It's Time to Phone Home Michael states "Both Apple TV and the iPhone are important devices as they cement Apple's role within different places of the digital home." Apple has not yet shipped either of these products yet, and they hold exactly 0% market share for their respective categories (digital media receivers and mobile phones). How can you cement a position you don't hold at all? I'll admit I'm interested to see how AppleTV does over the long haul, and whether or not it's couple-of-tricks-pony approach will resound with consumers on the scale iPods have to date. The iPhone has *much* stiffer competition than the iPod really ever did (to his credit, Michael does allude to this towards the end of this post -- kinda).
Michael has this to say in Is Apple Late to the Phone Game: "Yes, I know other devices can do a lot of what the iPhone can do but that's like saying there's a lot of other music players out there as well." Well, actually, no. There are many devices shipping today that can do everything the iPhone will be able to do when it ships (and more). And, based on prices given today, those devices do more things a whole heckuva lot cheaper now than iPhone will when it ships. The market conditions that existed when the iPod rose to its popularity aren't really in play today in the mobile phone market. Specifically: Sony resting on its Walkman, Discman and (most importantly) proprietary NetMD laurels, the rise of the MP3 as a universal standard, lack of understanding by the then current crop of MP3 players to realize it's all about the hardware form factor, lack of attention to marketing to get out a message. Apple showing up at the right time, with the right device and the right service coupled with the lack of a timely and competitive response from other established players in that market allowed the iPod to take its favorable market position. While Apple will probably be successful by its own definition ("1% market share in 2008" -- obviously and intentionally lowballed) it's doubtful the competition will take the same laissez faire attitude. While you compare the success of the iPhone to the iPod we could just as esily compare it to the Mac (as Jobs did during his keynote today). I think there are few people who doubt the historical and perhaps groundbreaking importance of the machine when it was introduced in 1984. The ancestors of the original Mac now account for 3-5% market share (depending on who you reference) for all personal computers worldwide. Which trajectory will the iPhone follow...?
What's Missing From the iPhone outlines 4 significant blockers to the iPhone success (go read 'em). Even so, Michael says "Even with these issues, I still believe Apple is going to be force to reckoned with in this space." Michael seems to ignore the fact cell phones (and in particular SmartPhones, which iPhones are suppose to squash) are much more enterpise oriented than consumer oriented, and the first three of the items he outlines represent some fundamental gaps in the story. Once iPhone reaches feature parity with current offering, then it becomes a market changer. Sound familiar? Yep. Zune.
"...the XBox is the challenger against Apple TV (and the Slingcatcher as well). There's a battle going on for your living room. There's still a lot of network issues that Microsoft needs to work out. Where's the support for N in Media Center?" is what we get in Will Apple TV have issues as it's 'only' 720p. Where to begin. First, the Xbox has shipped over 10 million units. Windows Media Center enabled SKUs of Windows has sold over 30 million units. Window XP (to which any XBox 360 can connect to and stream content from) has sold in the 100s of millions. How many AppleTVs have shipped. Zero to date. If anything, AppleTV is the challenger here. The network issues will also tend to be a problem for Apple if and when they ever implement true high definition TV (think about the live events scenarios here, like sports). As it is, they covered most of the hurdles with the addition of a 40GB hard drive in the AppleTV (kudos to them, but that has to bite into the profit margin due to the BOM) and limiting it largely to content available from iTunes. Speaking of the content available from iTunes -- most of that doesn't even need the bandwidth offered by 802.11n which Michael seemingly calls a gap for Microsoft (certainly not music which can bounce around on 802.11b just fine, and their standard definition videos which would be quite happy with 802.11g). An admirable first attempt by Apple to enter this market segment and it remains to be seen if they have all the wrinkles ironed out
I'll be interested in what Michael has to say over the next couple of days when he moves over to CES in Las Vegas, and notices Apple might not have a lock on everything they present in their keynotes.
Update: I thought Omar had some pretty good thoughts on this subject over at Thoughts on the macworld keynote.