Al Ries is Wrong, Part 2

In my last post – on a dare to evaluate an Al Ries video – I launched into a rather lengthy rant about why the internet would lead to the eventual obsolescence of traditional TV. Leave it to one of my colleagues (thank you, Justin) to make my point much clearer: “It’s not about the convergence of technologies, but the convergence of mediums.”

The main thrust of the Ries Report video was not really about TV-PC convergence, but used it as an example of convergence hype gone awry. He mainly employed the concept of convergence to predict the failure of Apple’s iPhone. “All hype, all hot air, no sales in the long run.”
Let me explain. No, there’s no time. Let me sum up. Al Ries believes that divergence is good; convergence is bad.

To demonstrate divergence, Mr. Ries uses several examples, including telephones: first there were regular phones, then cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and cell phones. He forgot two cans with string stretched out between them …

Convergence? “Well, with all the hype, everyone in the world is running around trying to put two things together that don’t belong together.”

As examples of the dangers inherent in the urge to converge, Mr. Ries – and this was hilarious – runs down a list of convergence failures: a Refrigerator-TV, Radio-Binoculars, Radio-Toaster, Camera-Printer, a Hamburger Hotel (a personal favorite), and MP3 Sunglasses.

Mr. Ries compares Apple’s iPod (divergence) with the iPhone (convergence). The iPod is a divergence device because it was the first high-capacity MP3 player unlike the original, low-capacity, versions. He implies that the iPhone is just another cell phone, and is thus doomed to fail. And here is where – if we use his own thesis – he is wrong.

With the iPhone, Apple has created an interactive user experience that surpasses other smart (cell) phones. Its large, touch screen user interface and internet browsing feature represents true innovation (divergence). Every iPhone feature is a simple touch away, and its screen does not offer a menu bar or other confusing buttons.

If Apple’s iPhone fails – as Mr. Ries suggests – it will not be because it is a “convergence device,” but because of flaws in 1-3 of the 4 Ps (no one can argue with how Promotion has been handled):

  1. The Product does not live up to its hype, or it is not substantially different than other Smart Phones.
  2. The Price is too steep (Up to $599 is a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper).
  3. Placement becomes an issue due to the exclusivity deal with AT&T.

Despite all of its recent marketing coups, don’t forget some Apple blunders: the Apple Lisa (1983), or the more relevant point, their refusal to share the Apple operating system with generic (or other) PC manufacturers, which opened the door for Windows and the explosive Microsoft growth that nearly buried them! The AT&T deal could prove to be equally limiting to the product’s success.
In my opinion, the easy to use, interactive experience with fewer features make the iPhone a divergence device not, as Mr. Ries insists, a convergence one. Look for it to be a big hit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *