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iPhone Backlash Misses the Point

Fake Steve Jobs is not someone to suffer indignity lightly. And lately he's had plenty to wax indignant about. We refer, natch, to the media backlash that has risen to a veritable tide of negativity in advance of the iPhone launch a mere 9 days away (and no, I am not blogging from a sleeping bag in front of my local AT&T Wireless store).
Fake Steve Jobs is not someone to suffer indignity lightly. And lately he's had plenty to wax indignant about. We refer, natch, to the media backlash that has risen to a veritable tide of negativity in advance of the iPhone launch a mere 9 days away (and no, I am not blogging from a sleeping bag in front of my local AT&T Wireless store).First there was this week's cover story in New York magazine, in which John Heileman managed to make it clear what a megalomaniac Jobs (the real one) is while admitting that, yes, the iPhone is likely to be a monster hit. Then things got really nasty.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday quoted multiple business CTOs in concluding that, while employees are salivating over the hot new devices, most companies won't support them: "Many businesses don't plan to sync them with internal email systems that use technology from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., Microsoft Corp. and Good Technology, owned by Motorola Inc."

London's Daily Mail weighed in with a negative review, and Forbes called the iPhone "a hacker's playground." ZDNet bloggers (who seem to multiply like rabbits) weighed in with no fewer than 50 less-than-glowing posts about Jobs' latest creation. The blogger at Gravitational Pull had the nerve to compare the sleek new quasi-smartphone to a 1994 Saab. How's that for a backhanded compliment?

What gives? Why is the press, which covered Jobs' announcement of the iPhone like he'd just achieved peace in the Middle East, suddenly so shirty about the device?

I happen to agree with the Two-a-Day blogger who gripes that journalists like me are "trying to show they are immune to the 'reality distortion field' or the so-called hype." That, after all, is allegedly part of our job description.

But there's something more going on as well - a divide between those (again like me) who write about smartphones and mobile devices for a living, and thus judge the iPhone through that lens, and those who see it for what it really is: a slick piece of consumer-electronics engineering that doesn't have to compete against the BlackBerry, or the Treo, or the Helio Ocean or anything else to succeed.

My point: So the iPhone may not catch on with enterprise IT departments. So it may just be a niche product, as this IDC survey indicates. But if that niche market comprises 10 million, or 20 million, or 30 million units sold in the first 18 months, the boost to Apple's bottom line, not to mention its status as an arbiter of techno-cool, will be tremendous - and Steve Jobs, real and fake, will have another massive hit to crow about.