Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma says iPhone will fail

The iPhone has to be one of the most hyped devices I’ve seen in a long time. Many of the reviews so far seem to indicate that the device actually lives up to the hype, which is no small feat. It’s interesting to see that Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma predicts that the iPhone should fail:

Who or what do you think will disrupt Google (GOOG) or Apple (AAPL)?

It’s hard for me to see what will disrupt Google. I think they’ve got a pretty good run ahead of them. Chapters five and six of The Innovator’s Solution describe how at the beginning phases of the industry, in order to play that game successfully you really need to have a proprietary, optimized, end-to-end architecture to your product.

Apple sure has that.

That’s why they’ve been successful. But just watch the [competitors’] advertisements that you hear for the ability to download music onto your mobile phone. Music on the mobile phone has to be downloaded in an open architecture way from Yahoo! Music or someplace else [other than iTunes]. Which means it’s clunkier, not as good. Mobile phones don’t have as much storage capacity, nor are their interfaces as intuitive [as iPods]. But for some folks, they’re good enough, and the trajectories [of people using their phone as a medium for listening to music] just keep getting better and better.

So music on the mobile phone is going to disrupt the iPod? But Apple’s just about to launch the iPhone.
The iPhone is a sustaining technology relative to Nokia. In other words, Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve [by building a better phone]. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the iPhone. They’ve launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It’s not [truly] disruptive. History speaks pretty loudly on that, that the probability of success is going to be limited.

I’ll be heading over to the Apple store at about 6PM tomorrow to see if I can get my hands on ones of these. If I do, I’ll be sure to post a review here with my thoughts.

–jeremy

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