Why Michael Scalisi deserves the Al Ries ‘Why the iPhone will Fail’ Award


At first, I couldn’t decide whether Michael Scalisi’s opinion piece on PCWorld.com today should receive the “John Dvorak Mac Fan-Boy Troll Award” or the “Al Ries Why the iPhone will Fail Award.”

But after 30 seconds of consideration, I decided the Al Ries award was more appropriate.

So why does Scalisi deserve an award?

First off, “the IT manager based in Alameda, California,” starts off his piece with this set up: “the rumored Apple tablet is a such a train wreck from start to finish that I don’t know where to begin.”

From there, Scalisi demonstrates why he should have listened to himself and not begun anywhere. He proceeds to demonstrate he has little idea of what the conceptual product is — imagining it to be a netbook or a tablet or an iPhone with a big screen or something that proves he is, indeed, an expert in train wrecks of misunderstanding.

Dvorak, at least, has the talent to put some logic and words together with enough skill to deserve the protest of Apple fan-boys. Reading Scalisi causes one merely to cringe — in a train wreck-watching sort of way.

So what does an award named for a once best selling marketing-book author come from?

On June 18, 2007, two weeks before the iPhone went on sale, Ries, wrote a column for Advertising Age (subscription link) that had the headline: “Why the iPhone Will Fail.”

In it, he too fell into the trap Scalisi has — a trap Apple always sets for those who think in linear, IT, PC sorts of ways. In his piece, Reis predicted the iPhone would be a “spectacular failure” because it was a “convergent device,” rather than a “divergent device.” In hindsight, the failure of his prediction is spectacularly ironic, in addition to being spectacularly wrong.

People just want a good phone, wrote Ries — they don’t want a Swiss Army Knife product.

Just think of the iPhone ads and those iPhone apps that do everything you can imagine. Think of those 1.5 billion apps customers have downloaded because they can converge nearly everything they can imagine into one device. Think of perhaps the most successful consumer electronic device of all time being the most convergent product ever created, and you’ll only then begin to comprehend the irony of Al Ries’ prediction.

And that is what Mr. Scalisi has to look forward to.