What iPhone skeptics said five years ago

On the fifth anniversary of the iPhone’s release, we look back at what some skeptics had to say about the seminal device. Believe it or not, the iPhone’s success wasn’t a given.

Five years ago today, the first iPhone went on sale. The device propelled Apple to its current standing as the world’s most successful technology company, and it helped usher in the era of the consumerization of IT.

With all of this success, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone was a risky proposition for Apple. Some observers said its lack of a physical keyboard, for example, would be a death knell. Plenty of iPhone skeptics -- competitors, future partners and even independent analysts -- had serious doubts about other issues, as well.

In this week’s Consumerization Quotes, we take a look back at what four iPhone skeptics had to say in 2007:

“In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.”
Jim Balsillie, co-CEO, Research In Motion

Back in 2007, Research In Motion (RIM) ruled the smartphone roost with its BlackBerry devices, and Balsillie downplayed the iPhone’s threat in an interview with Reuters. Perhaps he should have taken Apple more seriously from the get-go; today, RIM’s market share and stock price are in a free fall, its new BlackBerry 10 operating system is delayed and the company replaced Balsillie and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis in January.

“There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft

In an interview with USA Today, Ballmer seemed to view the iPhone as a Mac-like product that would develop a small but passionate customer base. He also jabbed Apple for defining its “phone experience just by music.” The iPhone has evolved to be much more than an iPod with a phone, and the two Microsoft products Ballmer discussed in the interview -- the Zune and Windows Mobile -- have both been discontinued.

“The iPhone product is something we are happy we aren't the first to market with.”
Danny Strigl, president and chief operating officer, Verizon

Remember the not-so-distant days when you could only get an iPhone on AT&T (formerly Cingular)? Verizon Wireless had first shot at the device but said no thanks, citing Apple’s demands about revenue sharing and control over distribution. As a result, Verizon found itself out in the cold as the iPhone’s popularity took off. It wasn’t until the iPhone 4’s release in 2011 that Verizon joined the party.

“Apple will likely have a tough time convincing application vendors to build specialized clients for the iPhone until the volumes are there, and the volumes could be limited by the lack of third-party applications -- a Catch-22.”
Jack Gold, founder, J. Gold Associates

Gold, a mobility analyst, didn’t completely discount the iPhone’s chances of succeeding in a 2007 Computerworld column, but he did raise an issue about its apps and whether or not they’d catch on. Apple’s original strategy was to employ Web apps, but once the company released an iPhone software developer's kit and debuted the App Store in 2008, the popularity of native apps skyrocketed. By April 2012, there were more than 378 million monthly iPhone app downloads in the U.S. alone, according to Xyologic.

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