In January 2007, Steve Jobs presented the iPhone at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco and met with very mixed reactions. Every manager should heed this story because there is no better learning experience.
Back then Steve Jobs promised at the iPhone presentation that Apple would “reinvent the telephone”. It was the kind of provocative announcement he loved. And he kept his promise, since Apple’s first smartphone really was completely different to the successful mobile phones of the then market leaders. There was no keyboard or pen for tapping the screen.
And although Kodak and the music industry were already on the road to insolvency, no-one at the time had any idea that the mobile phone sector would be so deeply affected by digital transformation.
Nokia’s reaction to the iPhone
The mobile phone industry was less than impressed when Jobs presented the iPhone. At the consumer electronics fair CES, taking place parallel to Apple’s event, Nokia spokesman Kari Tuuti declared that they respected Apple, but that of all the mobile phone manufacturers Nokia was seen as the one with the simplest user interface. He said the iPhone would have no chance against this opposition. After all, his company had sold almost 70 million music phones in 2006, the same amount of iPods as Apple had sold in roughly five years. Nowadays you would even have to explain to young people who Nokia was. Things were different in 2007 when the he Finnish company was still the market leader in mobile phones.
By 2017 Apple had sold around one billion iPhones. What a miscalculation by Nokia’s management at its company’s commercial peak. The upshot was that a few years later Nokia was sold to Microsoft – which turned out to be one of the biggest flops in the company’s history.
In the seminar on our book Lateral management – the success principle for companies in the digital age a manager once said: “Everyone knows that in the far distance an unbelievably fast train is hurtling towards us. We all think we’ll have time to react – and while we are thinking, the train has already passed us.”
On that note, make sure you draw the right conclusions from the story of the iPhone!