Apple turning to FUD?

The Macworld keynote is notable for more than the very slick iPhone. Steve Jobs has begun preannouncing products rather than delivering that very day.
Written by Mitch Ratcliffe, Contributor

The iPhone will be here in six months. The Macworld keynote has become famous for the “one more thing” that Steve Jobs would, stopping just as he appeared to be wrapping up, introduce by pulling a device from his pocket or under a veiled tabletop and announce that it was shipping that very day. 

Notable in this well-covered announcement is the fact that Steve Jobs has shifted to pre-announcing products. This suggests that competitive pressure on Apple is increasing, or that it feels it is falling behind planned goals and so has resorted to FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) tactics to freeze the market while it “catches up” with product development goals. 

FUD is Microsoft’s strategy, and IBM’s before that. You want great RSS support? Just wait for Vista! Oh, can you wait two more years? 

Apple hasn’t followed Microsoft’s pattern of slipped release dates, but it hasn’t been pre-announcing products until now.

Apple TV and the iPhone are impressive, though I don’t know why Apple TV does not ship with a PVR capability, but they aren’t available today. Apple TV will ship in February. iPhone will not hit the market until June. 

FUD worked when the market was not moving at the pace it does today. Cell phones are developed in months rather than years. When product lifecycles took two-and-a-half years from concept to manufacturing it was easy to urge consumers to postpone purchases by pre-announcing features that they might want and wait for from a market leader. 

It’s significant that Jobs said he’d been waiting two-and-a-half years to announce iPhone, because that’s an old-fashioned product cycle that is still underway. 

By the time it ships, iPhone will have been in development for three years. It’s a huge leap forward, for sure, but remember that the iPod went from idea to product in less than a year. 

Apple investors should note this change and watch for evidence that the company is moving more slowly than competitors.

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