Friday, January 12, 2007

iPhone, uPhone, We All Phone

Seemingly Apple launched a mobile phone this week. You may have read about it. But seriously...
The rumour mill has been predicting the iPhone ever since the video iPod was announced. Apple’s watertight communications policy meant that no hints or leaks were forthcoming from Cupertino. Astute tech journalists were able to piece together some possible details about the product from analysis of Apple’s recent patent applications. Industry chatter about material orders and production schedules of the various Asian subcontractors provided more information. The notional phone was a recurring conversation topic on TWiT for weeks. Such is to state that what was being announced on Tuesday was surely the worst-kept secret in the tech industry.

But when what was still, by definition, a rumour can have a material effect on the telecommunications sector, I believe that is worth taking note of. Like it or not, varying degrees of rumour and gossip are strong currency within the blogosphere. Much more so than in traditional media. It therefore seems worthwhile thinking about how organisations, or individuals for that matter, manage their reputation within such an environment. Carefully crafted statements and press releases are increasing worth very little in the face of the collective opinion and the wisdom of the crowds.

Another fascinating aspect of his iPhone story is just the shear volume of online coverage and commentary that it has generated, and far beyond the usual Apple advocates. Nearly every blog that I read regularly has posted something about it this week. And this is not just tech blogs: I am talking about a broad spectrum of marketing blogs, branding blogs, graphic design blogs, web design blogs and a few literary author’s blogs in the mix as well. (This could equally just reflect on the fact that 95% of the blogs I read are written by white males with some in-built geeky pro-gadget bias.) More to the point, this has to be the first time I can recall a product announcement getting a full-page article in the editorial spread of The Irish Times. But for just plain silliness it will be hard to top the link I received for Kottke’s iPhone size comparison post with photos of a cut-out iPhone placed beside similar products. Unintentionally hilarious.

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