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12/21/2006
11:17 AM
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Apple Customers Want Apple To Make A Phone. Will They?

Rumors of an Apple phone have been popping up across the Internet for a couple of weeks. Some parties mentioned in various instances of these rumors have denied the whole thing, while others have remained somewhat silent. Is Apple releasing a phone or not? Who knows. What I do know, however, is that with this level of interest, they probably ought to do so.

Rumors of an Apple phone have been popping up across the Internet for a couple of weeks. Some parties mentioned in various instances of these rumors have denied the whole thing, while others have remained somewhat silent. Is Apple releasing a phone or not? Who knows. What I do know, however, is that with this level of interest, they probably ought to do so.There's an anecdote that has stuck with me over the years, and which seems to be relevant here. As my memory of the story goes, General Electric was looking at the popcorn maker market, and comissioned a consumer survey to find out what people thought about the existing products. Surprisingly, GE's own popcorn maker came out on top in areas like reliabiilty and customer satisfaction. The surprising part--GE didn't actually sell any popcorn makers yet. Instead, consumers had formed strong associations with the GE brand, and had projected those features onto a non-existent product.

It seems pretty clear to me that people have projected Apple-brand features onto a non-existent phone in much the same way, and are assuming that it will be sleek, sexy, and eminently usable. This represents an opportunity for Apple, which probably shouldn't be skipped--if Apple customers want an Apple phone that badly, Apple should probably go ahead and build one, even if they aren't currently doing so.

This is a double-edged sword, of course. On the one hand, Apple could probably stomp their way into a significant share of the market with any product release, particularly if it delivered on the expected features. Indeed, it seems that there is a lot of pent up frustration with cell phones if this many people are wishing for Apple to ride in and save them with a killer phone. On the other hand, this level of expectation is hard to satisfy, and anything short of miraculous may end up being a disappointment. But Apple fans are notorious cheerleaders, so even if the phones only had one button and tended to explode after four hours of continued use, there would still be fans out there praising its curves and colors.

On a larger level, this phenomenon seems to suggest that Apple's customers want them to become a general electronics company, instead of being a PC company. It will be interesting to see if Apple decides to go where their customers want.

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