By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
December 1, 2009

What critics were saying about Steve Jobs’ smartphone in the months before it launched

Three years ago, when it became clear that Apple (AAPL) was about to unveil some kind of mobile phone, critics began to weigh in on its chances of success. AAPLinvestors’ Terry Gregory, building on a list of skeptical quotes begun by MacDailyNews, has put together what may be the definitive collection.

A sample:

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”
Palm CEO Ed Colligan, commenting on then-rumored Apple iPhone, 16 Nov 2006

“Apple is slated to come out with a new phone… And it will largely fail.”
Michael Kanellos, CNET, 7 December 2006

“The only question remaining is if, when the iPod phone fails, it will take the iPod with it.”
Bill Ray, The Register, 26 December 2006

“Apple will likely have a tough time convincing application vendors to build specialized clients for the iPhone until the volumes are there, and the volumes could be limited by the lack of third-party applications – a Catch 22.”
Jack Gold, J. Gold Associates, 10 January 2007

“The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks.”
Matthew Lynn, Bloomberg, 15 January 2007

“Five hundred dollars? Fully subsidized, with a plan? It is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard which makes it not a very good email machine… So, I, I kinda look at that and I say, well, I like our strategy. I like it a lot.”
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 17 January 2007

I am not sure how it will stand against Sprint’s Wimax (when it successfully launches) and its phones, which I am looking forward much more than over-hyped Apple iPhone.”
Bhaskar Chitraju, Indews Broadcast, 18 January 2007

“iPhone may well become Apple’s next Newton.”
David Haskin, Computerworld, 26 February 2007

“Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone… What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it’s smart it will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures… Otherwise I’d advise people to cover their eyes. You are not going to like what you’ll see.”
John C. Dvorak, 28 March 2007

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.”
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 30 April 2007

“How do they deal with us?”
Ed Zander, Motorola CEO/Chairman 10 May 2007

“Apple begins selling its revolutionary iPhone this summer and it will mark the end of the string of hits for the company.”
Todd Sullivan, Seeking Alpha, 15 May 2007

“What does the iPhone offer that other cell phones do not already offer, or will offer soon? The answer is not very much… Apple’s stated goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008 seems ambitious.”
Laura Goldman, LSG Capital, 21 May 2007

“We Predict the iPhone will bomb. Which means that when the iPhone comes, Digg will likely be full of horror stories from the poor saps who camped out at their local AT&T store, only to find their purchase was buggier than a camp cabin.”
Seth Porges, The Futurist, 7 June 2007

“The forthcoming (June 29) release of the Apple iPhone is going to be a bigger marketing flop than Ishtar and Waterworld combined. Because its designers forgot Platt’s First, Last, and Only Law of User Experience Design (“Know Thy User, for He Is Not Thee”), that product is going to crash in flames. Sell your Apple stock now, while the hype’s still hot. You heard it here first.”
David S. Platt, Suckbusters!, 21 June 2007

“God himself could not design a device that could live up to all the hype that the iPhone has gotten.”
Harvard computer science professor David Platt, 25 June 2007

More than 33 million iPhones, 100,000 apps and 2 billion downloads later, the death watch continues. To see AAPLinvestors’ full collection — including comparisons to such “iPhone killers” as the Palm (PALM) Pre, Research in Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry Storm and Motorola’s (MOT) Droid — click here.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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