If you follow tech news and trends you know Apple has been forced into a very unusual situation for them. No other company is as secretive and guarded with their products and product announcements as Apple. It was with much amazement and wonder then that a prototype of the next generation iPhone got left in a bar in California and fell straight into infamy. Now with legal troubles hanging over Gizmodo and its owner Nick Denton, reporter Jason Chen, and the person who found the device; some questions remain. The biggest question is: What does Apple do next? According to reports on Yahoo and Cult of Mac, the answer may surprise you.
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray analyst, sent an e-mail to Cult of Mac on the issue. Piper Jaffray is an international investment and securities firm with expertise in many areas. Piper Jaffray analysts regularly comment on issues surrounding technology as a whole and Apple in particular. In his e-mail to Cult of Mac, Mr. Munster revealed his opinion that the issues around the Gizmodo story would force Apple to publicly release the new iPhone “sooner versus later”. Mr. Munster’s reasoning revolves around a very basic assumption of market economics; people aren’t going to buy last year’s model if they know ahead of time that a newer model is coming soon with the features they want. iPhone 3GS sales will slow, as the line of reasoning goes, and people will stop buying it in anticipation of the new model. If Apple wants to sustain high sales figures, it needs to get the next iPhone in the market as soon as possible; preferably not waiting until the anticipated launch in June.
While Mr. Munster is certainly a respected analyst who is a lot closer to the pulse of the tech industry than I am, I don’t think Apple will feel the need to rush the new iPhone out into public. I think Apple really just wants this whole situation with Gizmodo and the iPhone prototype to go away. Through this whole situation I’ve been reading and listening to John Gruber at the Daring Fireball blog. John is probably one of the three people whose opinion on Apple I respect the most. He thinks for now Apple just wants this story to go away and I’m inclined to agree with him. More than anything, in my opinion not Mr. Gruber’s, I think Apple would rather this all just fell back into the background until late June. On June 22nd Steve can come out on stage and introduce the new iPhone with a relatively clean slate.
The other reason I think Apple won’t rush to release the iPhone is that it simply may not be technically feasible to do so. While many would like to believe what we saw on Gizmodo is the iPhone in final form, let’s face it, it was a prototype. And probably a prototype among many, if not more than a dozen, prototypes that exist. Apple simply may not be ready to release it yet. The feature list may not be finalized and software may still be in development. Say what you will about Apple but they are fastidious about quality. Rushing to market with an unfinished product just to meet expectations or sustain sales is a Microsoft move, not Apple. I just don’t see them trading in this guiding principle to fore go flat iPhone sales for one month.
I will be as surprised as anyone if the next generation iPhone comes out ahead of the assumed June 22nd release date. Is it possible? Of course, anything is possible with Apple. I just don’t see any impetus for Apple to do so. The longer they let this story fade into the background, the better it is in the end for them. As talk shifts from the actual prototype to the legal implications for Gizmodo, people will soon forget it was even a story and turn their attention back to the rumor and speculation that feeds the Apple media machine so well.
Should Apple try to get the new iPhone out sooner rather than later? Do you think Apple will experience a couple of flat months in iPhone sales as people hold off purchasing the iPhone 3GS? Would you hold off knowing what you know now about the new iPhone prototype? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.