Nokia pounces on Apple's snowballing marketing blunder

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Following the iPhone saga (yes, still), here is what happens when a company backs itself into a corner:

From Gizmodo:

"According to Apple, "no software developer kit is required for the iPhone." However, the truth is that the lack of an SDK means that there won't be a killer application for the iPhone. It also means the iPhone's potential as an amazing computing and communication platform will never be realized. And because of this I don't think the iPhone will be as revolutionary as it could be. That's a real heart breaker.

"Steve Jobs initially sold the iPhone as the Next Big Thing from Apple, just like the Macintosh was. The Macintosh really broke the mold. While not as groundbreaking, the iPhone is an intelligent and clean implementation of existing things. Really intelligent, really clean, like the Mac. Unlike the original Mac, however, developers won't have full access to its core features. Without them there won't be the equivalent of PageMaker, Photoshop, Word or Premiere in the iPhone, powerful applications taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of the hardware, the operating system and its frameworks.

"Those applications spawned two revolutions: desktop publishing (including photo editing) and desktop video. It was the Mac and its third-party apps that brought radical changes that have deeply affected us, not the Mac alone.

"On the iPhone, however, developers will be limited to developing Web applications based on AJAX, a set of Internet standards that make software like GMail, Google Maps or FaceBook possible. The iPhone is the real thing, a complete UNIX-to-go with stunning graphic classes, and developers will be limited to do stuff like this.


"So no SDK = no access to iPhone's cool frameworks = no revolutionary apps, no real new concepts coming from third-parties, no eye candy available for anyone but Apple and no possibility for some really crazy games that will fully exploit the graphic and multi-touch power of the iPhone."

And this, of course, follows Apple's rabid blitzkrieg against unlocked iPhones and 3rd party applications usage last week.

If you didn't gather from the first part of this post, this isn't a story of corporate legalities. It is simply a story of disappointment, out here in the real world. In what most business execs might call "the market." We all bought into the promise of the iPhone: Beautiful design, killer features, gorgeous screen, etc. But then Apple blocked us from making the iPhone ours, and things started getting sour fast.

At this point, Apple might as well lease the damn things instead of selling them... which actually may not be a bad idea if we aren't going to be allowed to customize or load applications on them them as needed.

Here's the thing: When most of us buy something, we don't like to be told what we can and can't do with it. Most other manufacturers, distributors and marketers know this: This is why even though speed limits never exceed 75mph in the USA, most cars sold in all 50 states can at least go to 120mph. This is why cans of soup, jars of mayonnaise, cups of yogurt and bags of nuts now come with clever little recipe ideas on the package. This is why Burger King lets you "have it your way," and why Starbucks will brew up just about any type of coffee drink you ask for: This is America and for better or for worse, people here want to have the freedom to use products they pay for as they see fit. A shovel. A pen. A grill. A laptop. This should be no different.

What Steve Jobs and his minions don't seem to get is that we are already using tons of these aps on our laptops and desktops. All we want to do is transfer their functionality to our smartphones. That's it. Is that really too much to ask? Of course not... Yet here we are.

Not to get too Biblical here, but giving mankind the coolest phone ever designed and then ordering us to only use a fraction of its features is not unlike God showing Adam around the garden of Eden, taking him to the super exciting and mysterious tree of life, talking it up as the coolest, most powerful plant ever, and then ordering him not to ever, ever, ever taste its fruit. Not under any circumstances. We all know how that turned out.

Not that Steve Jobs is God nor iPhone the tree of life... but you get the point.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that Apple should have seen the backlash coming. More importantly, Apple should have given more thought to how to make sure the brand and the product might avoid backing themselves into an impossible corner with their myopic and monopolistic outlook.

And POW! Faster than you can sa ruh-roh, Apple's decision not to open iPhone to customization and third party applications (yet) gave a major player in the mobile phone market the platform it needed to earn back some much needed limelight. Enter Nokia and its "Open To Anything" campaign, which essentially promises complete freedom to users: "Open to all applications. Open to all widgets. Open to anything. What it does is up to you."

Of course.

Apple: No Freedom. Nokia: Complete Freedom.

Marketing Commandment #9: "When you don't like where the conversation is going, change the conversation."

Up until now, iPhone was about design and cool and wow. Nokia couldn't compete against design and cool and wow. (iPhone and Nokia's phones weren't even in the same orbit.) But these days, the conversation has shifted away from design and cool and wow. All people are talking about now are locked phones, bricked phones, blocked 3rd party applications, and how iPhone and Apple don't let users do what they want with their gimped phones.

If you were Nokia, what would you do?

Exactly. You would let the world know that your phones aren't locked. That they won't get bricked. That they will not block 3rd party applications. That users will be free to customize and use their phones as they see fit.

Easy as pie.

I suspect that other mobile phone manufacturers will follow suit and position themselves against Apple's monopolistic attitude pronto. As a matter of fact, those weird little busy sounds you've been hearing in the distance all week, those are the sounds being made by mobilephone providers' marketing departments and ad agencies all over the US, scrambling to follow Nokia's example.

As well they should.

These last two weeks, Apple has become its worst enemy: After a brilliant release this spring and a healthy outlook for its iPhone, it has managed to single-handedly antagonize a significant portion of its early adopters, permanently scare away a gaggle of potential iPhone users, and give all of its fiercest competitors a tangible and fiercely effective anti-iPhone/anti-Apple strategy.

That's some accomplishment.

The lesson here is tenfold:

1) Don't ever blow off your most passionate or vocal customers/users.
2) Don't ever try to control whom uses your products, or how, or why.
3) Don't be inflexible when it comes to possibly having to make strategic adjustments along the way.
4) When it comes to your relationship with your customers/users/fans, don't ever switch from dialog to monologue.
5) Don't open yourself to easy attacks by your competitors.
6) Don't ever allow yourself to become one of the black hats.
7) Don't ever make easy assumptions about how "the market" will react to your brilliant strategy.
8) Don't punish your early adopters.
9) Don't punish your users, especially if all they did was customize your products to fit their needs.
10) Just because you are the coolest company in the world doesn't mean you can't screw up from time to time.

Watching competitors react to Apple's embattled position is going to be a beautiful case study in market dynamics.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. :)

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