Friday, July 11, 2008


Today's iPhone launch offers a kind of "even worthy Homer nodded" opportunity to watch how a firm known for carefully orchestrated product launches can manage to screw the pooch at the very moment everyone is paying the most attention.

As I type, I note the shares are down on the day (over 2% in one day), despite that this is the official worldwide iPhone rollout, and despite that Apple's application sales portal shows some software vendors have already rung the register for tens of thousands of dollars in sales for single software titles. Mind you, this was day one. The fact that folks seem to accept the applications store well enough to pump tens of thousands of dollars into single titles (upgrade revenues for ongoing customers arguably have the same effect as new releases, as upgrade revenue is software vendors' single biggest revenue source) seems a fairly good endorsement of the App Store, considering its lack of history.

I, for one, would have no idea how the App Store is to use on an iPhone. It turns out that Apple's updater system, after informing me that a software version 2.0 was available for download and then updating iTunes to ensure it could be installed on my iPhone snidely displayed this gem:

This, after I'd clicked a box instructing iTunes to install iPhone 2.0 software.

Now, this might not be a new launch issue. My iPhone has been misbehaving, giving me spurious errors for a while now. The phone would be partway through synch, then report an error like this:

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to synch, I decided to try a software restore:

This is frustrating, because it doesn't tell you how long you are in for ... but, aha! I get a progress bar ...

... for a while ... then I get this cryptic message:

This is the kind of cryptic numerical error message I used to hear Apple fans describe when sniggering at Microsoft products, and which I don't think I've seen much since the days of MacOS 9. So maybe my phone is borked, and I'll have to get help at the Apple Store.

This would still leave unexplained the network crash, activation issues, cloud service outages, and other lunacy that seems to have plagued the Apple's 2.0 launch.

Assuming Apple likes its products described as "more workhorse than show pony" I'd think Apple would work harder to avoid what from the outside look like rookie mistakes. This isn't the kind of thing that inspires confidence in enterprise, particularly if Apple is to be entrusted with the iPhone's push messaging system that is to underpin all the incoming communications with third-party network tools like email, IM, and the like.

UPDATE: Apple may really be innocent in activation problems. Apparently activation issues are reported with O2, Rogers, AT&T, and possibly other carriers. Sales were reportedly brisk in many countries. I'm interested in leads on whether activation issues lay with Apple's back-end rather than with carriers' infrastructure, but I'm not sure how I'd find out. Presumably, a country whose launch was tame might have little carrier overhead, and failures there might point to a bottleneck with an Apple-operated activation step rather than a carrier dependent one. If there's a country with no problems on launch, it'd seem to clear Apple. Anyone got a specimen of a problem-free launch?

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