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6/28/2007
01:43 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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MP3.com Founder Michael Robertson Says iPhone Will Flop

"I think it's going to be a flop. It's beautiful, no doubt, but people need the tactile feedback of keys."--MP3.com, Linspire, and SIPphone founder Michael Robertson. Who the heck is Robertson to speak? For those whose memory of the first Internet bubble is hazy--of the mid-1990s, like the '60s, one can say that if you remember them, you probably weren't there--Robertson reportedly walked away with $

"I think it's going to be a flop. It's beautiful, no doubt, but people need the tactile feedback of keys."--MP3.com, Linspire, and SIPphone founder Michael Robertson.

Who the heck is Robertson to speak? For those whose memory of the first Internet bubble is hazy--of the mid-1990s, like the '60s, one can say that if you remember them, you probably weren't there--Robertson reportedly walked away with $100 million when he sold MP3.com to Vivendi Universal in 2001.Robertson later took the helm of Linspire, where he took on Microsoft with an aggressive campaign to pit Linux against Windows. Currently, he's involved with his startups AnywhereCD, MP3tunes.com, and SIPphone. I talk with him in detail about that stuff, in my full interview, here.

But you clicked on this post to read the iPhone stuff. Here goes:

Q: Michael, what do you think of the iPhone?

Robertson: I think it's going to be a flop. It's beautiful, no doubt, but people need the tactile feedback of keys. No one's going to type an email on a glass screen. It's just not going to happen. And when you talk about a smartphone, that's the thing that people do after calling--they want to do email, they want to do text messaging. It's going to be awful for that.

Might it do music okay? Yes, but it's crippled, because you can't even use Wi-Fi to update your music, which is ridiculous. You have to [use] your PC, be able to cable it in. So what's the point of having Wi-Fi then?

So I think it's going to be a bust of a product, but it is going to push the industry forward a lot, and make the carriers--especially in the United States--consider higher-end, more feature-rich phones, which today they're not totally focused on. In fact, they're blocking [them].

I'm talking to you on a Nokia T61i, which has a built-in QWERT keyboard. The beauty of this device is, it has Wi-Fi, so anything I do on the phone--talking, Web browsing, email--I get to choose whether to use to Wi-Fi or to use the carrier's channel. That's enormous power. If I'm at the office and I want a fast data connection, I don't want to the limitations of the carrier, I can choose to do any of those activities over Wi-Fi. I don't think consumers are going to have that choice with the iPhone. It's going to be, you'll use Wi-Fi when we tell you can use Wi-Fi. That's going to be restricted by the carrier to not include phone calls, and restricted by Apple to not allow you to do music over Wi-Fi, which is just ridiculous.

Read the rest of the interview with Robertson, posted here.

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