By MG Siegler
Yesterday morning, Reuters published this article. On their site, it seems fairly innocuous, with the title “RIM stock jumps as market eyes revamped BlackBerry” but that wasn’t the original title. And it’s not the one Reuters syndication partners are picking up. That title is “RIM seen unveiling ‘iPhone killer’ next week.” Yep. Here we go again.
If Reuters is to be believed, the BlackBerry 9800 set to be unveiled next Tuesday will destroy the iPhone. I’m not sure how yet. But it just will. Nevermind the fact that it’s at least the tenth or so phone to earn such a moniker — and the iPhone is not only still alive, but thriving — it just will.
Now look, generally I don’t have a major problem with declaring something a “XXXXX-killer” in headlines. Sure, it’s lazy, but it’s also an easy way to get readers to understand what a product is attempting to be. And it’s a hell of a lot sexier than saying something is a “XXXXX competitor.” That’s boring (and longer, to boot).
The problem with the term “iPhone killer” is that it has lost all meaning. Crying it has become the modern day equivalent of crying “wolf”. The G1 was an iPhone killer. The BlackBerry Storm was an iPhone killer. The Palm Pre was an iPhone killer. The Nexus One was an iPhone killer. The list goes on. All of those devices are now dead or dying.
Sure, you could argue that the various iterations of the iPhone are all different so the original iPhone is now dead too. But the key is that it wasn’t any of the aforementioned devices that killed it — it was Apple (AAPL). It was simply the natural product cycle that killed the older iPhones, not a competitor.
And the iPhone hasn’t yet killed any competitor either — or at least not directly. You could argue that the device has had a hand in the death (by sale) of the Palm Pre, as well as the struggles that Nokia (NOK), and now LG are having in the smartphone space. But the larger point is that the entire space is growing so quickly that it would be nearly impossible for one device to actually kill off another one. Instead, it’s poor decisions and execution by the company in charge that kill the devices (see: Microsoft Kin).
And specifically with “iPhone killers,” there’s a problem because while they may be created with the intention of competing with the iPhone, most actually don’t from the outset. Apple has a unique way of doing things where they control the hardware and the software for their devices. Most companies don’t (though BlackBerry parent RIM (RIMM) does), so instead they end up competing with one another.
People buy the iPhone because they want the full hardware plus software experience and access to the contained Apple ecosystem. People buy the “iPhone killers” for other reasons. Some because they are cheaper. Some because they have physical keyboards. Some because they are more open. Those products aren’t competing with (or “killing”) the iPhone because Apple doesn’t offer any of those things.
So perhaps it would be better to label “iPhone killers” as “killers of iPhone killers” — or, even sexier, “iPhone killer killer.”
The fundamental question here: is the BlackBerry 9800 going to kill the iPhone? No. Is it going to hurt the sales of the iPhone? Probably not. Is it going to be a popular device? Probably, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the iPhone.
Tuesday, I noted that the mouse was going to die. But if you read those posts carefully, I didn’t say the Magic Trackpad (or any single device, for that matter) was going to kill it. Instead, it’s a combination of new devices and time that will kill it.
The same is true for the iPhone. One day it will die. But the killer holding the knife will be Apple — either because they’ve mismanaged the product, or because they’ve moved on to something else.
[image: Lions Gate Films]