A decade ago today, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and nobody knew quite what to think. It was expensive, it didn’t have 3G, there was no physical keyboard and the touchscreen didn’t have a stylus.
Critics said that Apple was entering a bear pit where profit margins were low and tastes changed quickly. Not everyone was convinced it could repeat the success of the iPod.
Steve Ballmer: “No chance of any significant market share”
Microsoft’s then chief executive’s comments on the iPhone would come back to haunt him. He predicted that it would be a niche product, and that Microsoft would dominate the smartphone.
“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.”
In the third quarter of 2016, the iPhone had a market share of 11.5%. Windows Phone had 0.4%.
TechCrunch: “We predict the iPhone will bomb”
Technology website TechCrunch said the iPhone had probably been rushed out before it was ready, and said the touchscreen would prove useless.
“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone. Don’t be surprised if a sizable contingent of iPhone buyers express some remorse at ditching their BlackBerry when they spend an extra hour each day pumping out emails on the road.”
To be fair, it was right about battery life and cracked screens.
Nokia: “It doesn’t change our thinking”
Nokia was the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer when the iPhone was released. At the time, its chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said he welcomed it.
“I don’t think that what we have seen so far (from Apple) is something that would in any way necessitate us changing our thinking when it comes to openness, our software and business approach. But the fact that Apple is entering the market, in general, I think will stimulate this market, it’s very clear. I think it will be good for the industry and I very much welcome that.”
Kallasvuo was replaced by Stephen Elop in 2010. A year later, Elop penned a blistering note to staff about how the company had failed to adapt.
John Dvorak: “Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone”
After the success of the iPod, betting against the iPhone was a bold move. But tech columnist John Dvorak said the mobile phone business, dominated by Nokia and Motorola, would prove too competitive.
“The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within three months.
There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive. Even in the business where it is a clear pioneer, the personal computer, it had to compete with Microsoft and can only sustain a 5% market share.”
Dvorak suggested Apple should pass the design to Samsung.
BlackBerry: “It’s just another competitor”
Jim Balsillie, the then co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, said the launch wasn’t a “sea-change” for the industry.
“It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers. But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.”
The company stopped making phones last year.
The Telegraph: “Breathtakingly simple”
The iPhone wasn’t released in the UK until November 2007, so there was some time for The Telegraph’s reviewer to take stock and avoid the risky predictions that others had made.
“I make no apologies for my breathless enthusiasm for this device. It’s quite simply one of the loveliest gadgets I have ever tried. It’s at once breathtakingly simple and amazingly clever, the idiot-proof interface doing a neat job of distracting you from the fact that the iPhone is – to all intents and purposes – a handheld computer; it runs on a stripped-back version of Apple’s acclaimed computer operating system, OS X, and that’s one of the reasons hackers have been probing the iPhone with such enthusiasm: they can almost smell the latent computing power hidden inside it.”