It's not quite the column I would have expected from him, but I think Eugene Robinson got it about right:
Jobs was quick to realize that you have to sell image along with the gizmo.The price drop wasn't unexpected - as Jobs observed prior to recognizing the scope of the backlash, that's part and parcel of buying new technology. The problem was the magnitude of the price drop. Over at A VC, a millionaire venture capitalist presents what to me seems to be a microcosm of the uproar:
This time, though, he has failed to live up to one clause in his implied contract with iPhone buyers. The sky-high price was supposed to guarantee a decent period of exclusivity. For a time, if you bought an iPhone, you were supposed to be the envy of your friends. The ability to show off all the neat things it could do was your compensation for the fact that the iPhone didn't really change your life.
- I don't want an iPhone.
- I got an iPhone for my birthday.
- I'm perfectly happy to treat my iPhone, still in the factory-sealed box, as a $599 paperweight.
- I'm outraged that my $599 paperweight is now a $399 paperweight!
Also, with the launch of the iPod touch, there would have probably been concerns about how many people would choose to carry two gadgets (their current cell phone plus a 'touch') as opposed to switching over to the iPhone. (At the same time, I believe the 'touch' has been overpriced so as not to eat into either the sales of Apple's remaining iPod inventory at the lower end, or the continuing sales of iPhones at the higher end. I expect a $100 price drop, or a $50 price drop with a significant bump up in RAM, after Christmas. And I expect the next generation iPhone to have at least twice the RAM.)
Seth Godin has some interesting suggestions for how Apple could perhaps have better smoothed the ruffled feathers of early adapters.
I believe that there is something to be inferred from the fact that Eugene Robinson, a fifty-something journalist, is paying this much attention to the iPhone - something he doesn't own or even plan to own. Even giving due credit to the effect of hype, and even acknowledging the many limitations of the iPhone, the iPhone's design advances (and advantages) are obvious to pretty much anybody who has ever used a cellular phone. Even the AARP crowd knows the iPhone is "cool".