Sure, you know that for a few hours iTunes couldn’t activate iPhone 3G, the day it came out. Big deal. The lessons that Apple really needs to learn have taken longer to uncover, but we’ll run them down.
Now that Apple is admitting that MobileMe’s launch was a failure, it’s time to go back to launch day… and see where they could have change things.
Lesson 1: Don’t launch everything at once.
iPhone OS 2.0 did not need to come out the same day as iPhone 3G. iTunes 7.7 didn’t need to come out at the same time as MobileMe, on the same day as iPhone OS 2.0, the iPod touch OS 2.0, and iPhone 3G.
A more appropriate rollout would have been to launch MobileMe two entire weeks before iPhone 3G. That way, Mac and PC could be up-to-date. There’s no evidence that iPhone users would have been impacted by leaving everything on .Mac configuration during that time.
iTunes 7.7 should have been released a week before, with the App Store simply disabled. That would have allowed for issues with the installation and iTunes Activation to have been cleared up well in advance of release.
And, finally, iPhone OS 2.0 should have gone out to existing iPhone owners a day before launch. That update restored many iPhones to factory condition, jamming an already-overloaded iTunes activation server. iPod touch’s update, similarly, should have launched a day after iPhone 3G. And, due to all the bugs, for most people it did take that long… but it was havoc inside of Cupertino while this was sorted out.
Lesson 2: Apple shouldn’t set hard dates.
The June timeframe for rolling out MobileMe alongside of iPhone, and the App Store, was convoluted to begin with. It missed Apple’s internal focus on launching one product at a time. Instead, everything was shoehorned into a single release day.
In hindsight, Apple would have benefitted from launching iPhone 3G with .Mac services, and simply done what they did with Mac OS X 10.5.4, which is left a “hook” inside of the operating system to check for when the .Mac-to-MobileMe transition had taken place. Once it did, a small app could have been downloaded that re-wrote .Mac to MobileMe. If it works on the Mac, it would have worked fine on iPhone 3G, they’re using essentially the same code.
Apple is a company that works best when there isn’t a deadline. Don’t mess with a good thing.
Lesson 3: Set expectations.
If Apple had said before iDay 2.0 that there may be up to a 12-hour delay for activating iPhone 3G, there wouldn’t have been launch-day hysteria. Again, this goes back to Lesson 1 that I posited earlier, but still, Apple needs to have better crowd control procedures.
All it would have taken was a simple, one-sentence note in iPhone 3G’s launch documents to the public. And, Apple knew there was a good chance this would happen… so it’s their fault for missing the boat on cautioning potential buyers.
Lesson 4: Get more/better PR.
Apple is notorious for having horrible public relations. In five years, I still can’t figure out if the problem is that Apple’s PR team is either woefully out-of-touch, or woefully overwhelmed. I’d like to believe the latter, really, I do.
But the fact remains, Apple has lousy public relations, and this just leaves writers to print more hysteria on top of the few no-comment replies that do come from official channels.
Lesson 5: Make pricing cogent from all angles.
iPhone 3G pricing, as we previously reported, doesn’t make sense. It is cheaper to buy an iPhone 3G as a new customer, pay for a month of service, and then the early termination fee… than it is to buy an iPhone 3G at the no-contract price.
While Apple likely won’t lose any money from this route, AT&T may be forced to increase no-contract iPhone 3G prices down the road because of this. And, I assure you, the media will make a big deal out of that, and the public will be left scratching their heads, thinking iPhone 3G costs more now than before.