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June 2007


Andrea Morris

Couldn't agree more. The iphone may well be a quality product, but when companies overpromise, the end result is disapointment. I've always learned "under promise, over deliver" That way you exceed your client's expectations.

Perfect Life Project


I am with you on this one. I believe the IPhone will take off fast but die just as quickly once people realise what a compromised machine it is. iPod, great breakthrough. iPhone, not so sure.

I have been a fan of your Focus(ed)a dn divergent approach for years now. I apply it to my business, my clients and even my life (I am currently documenting it via my blog Perfect Life Project) and it has never let me down.

It's hard and counter-intuitive for leaders to resist the concepts that you warn against (convergence, brand extension, lack of focus) but it is worthwhile if they do.


David Taylor (brandgym)

You can join the vote on "iPhone hit or miss" here:

Laura, you really are in the minority... but who knows, perhaps you'll be right! I took iPhone fan Seth Godin's lowball prediction of 2 million units in the first year as "OK". Results so far:
BIG HIT (10 million units+): 47%
HIT (5 million +): 31%
OK (2 million +): 17%
MISS: (<2 million):6%

michael brooke

You know, I think that Apple will release the IPhone, and then, just in time for Xmas, will fire out a new line of Ipods that have the really cool interface.

Let's be honest here...it's the beautiful software that is exciting folks, not the fact that they can use a phone with their Ipod.


iPod is not divergence, divergence is Darwin's finches i.e. niche specialization...like red bull into the energy drink market...lucky for red bull, the unexplored niche they specialized in turned out to be much larger than the Finches’ tiny island, and they were there first, so they were able to exploit it. McDonalds defined the fast food market. They mostly do burgers and they have fried chicken (McNuggets and McChicken Sandwhich) though it isn’t their strong point. That was an unexploited niche where KFC was able to specialize and grow. Ditto with Taco Bell - burritos, Arby’s – hot sandwiches, and White Castle – tiny burgers. (But if you say Fast Food, McDonald’s is what comes to mind, none of the specializers have been able to over take McDonalds in the overall fast food market because they’re stuck in the niches and will be until they become better than McDonalds at the whole fast food thing by acquiring a new trait, not a specialized one, that makes them better).

That was not the case with iPod, the mp3 player market was already established. iPod has become the dominant mp3 player not by trying to specialize in a niche market, like red bull or KFC, but by adding traits from other areas (cheap, legal music/iTunes/video), and improving weak traits in the market (user interface/style). The most important part of the iPod wasn’t the iPod, it was iTunes that worked across platforms, almost seamlessly, and was legitimate. Without iTunes we wouldn’t be talking about the iPod, even with the user interface, it would have just been another fancy mp3 player. It was the convergence of mp3 player and music store via a great user experience that lead to iPods dominance. And those kinds of acquisition, which you call “convergence”, are the most powerful steps in evolution. Aka acquisition of the chloroplast, the mitochondria, antibiotic resistance plasmids, etc…pieces from separate areas that came together and made something better, more fit, more competitive…of course most of the combinations turn out to be the coke blaks and segways of the world and are unfit, and the iPhone may be that too. For better or for worse, Jobs is into the huge, tree of life defining splits, and it’ll be convergence not divergence that gets him there…the tough part with the convergence is that like the eukaryotic cell and the mitochondria, the pieces have to work perfectly together, or you’ll have “One device that does everything” but “compromise on size, price, battery life and ease of use” and is thus unfit for competition. So I agree with you, the cards are stacked against Apple, I just disagree on the anti-convergence part. We’ll know if the iPhone is Tree of Life-esk on the 29th.

iPod does do divergence though…that would be the nano and the shuffle, but they weren’t the earth shattering part.

As for categories I use to have:
Wrist Watch
Alarm Clock
Cell Phone
Old Palm Pilot
Olympus Stylus Camera
Sony Video Camera
AOL instant messenger

I have a Treo

I still have the Sony and Olympus, but except for trips where I want great pictures, they’re both too much extra to carry everyday, so they sit and gather dust. The camera on the treo does fine snapping the random shots and videos I want to share with my friends and family, and one day the camera on the Treo will match the Sony and Olympus, and so they will go coz they won’t be able to make phone calls, text messages, and email…but I will concede most people aren’t like me.

P.S. Sorry for the long post.


I wish if i can share my brand directory with you and readers.

Here is link:




iPod replaced traditional music CDs. We went from playing music on CD players to using digital storage.

iTunes helped along the process because no brand had the courage to build a service to sell music cheaply. Once .99 songs were available the whole thing took off.

Because iPod has over 75 percent of the digital music market is doesn't matter that it is a closed system. However most people use iTunes on a PC not a Mac.

Divergence refers to new categories emerging. Convergence refers to existing categories coming together.

The terms come from Charles Darwin and the Great Tree of Life. New species are emerging and diverging from existing ones all the time. What you don't see in nature is species coming together. You also have evolution, which means that individual species improve all the time.

McDonald's established the fast-food category and it gets better all the time but also new categories like KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks diverge from that fast-food category. McDonald's has not succeeded in being a fried chicken, pizza or high-end coffee place.

The way to build a new brand is by being the first to get into the mind with a new category idea. You win not my being better but my being different.

Red Bull called itself an energy drink for example. Divergence.

Combining Coke and Coffee (Coke Blak)is convergence and destined for failure. Coke is successful and Starbucks is successful but not a category that combines the two.

In technology, you need to find out how to be first and/or to dominate with one key idea or function.

BlackBerry: wireless email
iPod: digital music
Logitech: Keyboard, mice
RAZR: small flip phone

One device that doesn't everything is going to have to compromise on size, price, battery life and ease of use.

A small number of people might still be willing to use it or try it. But the majority of people are like me that have multiple devices and buy the best brand in each category.

I currently have:
RAZR phone
iPod Nano
iPod Shuffle
Nikon D200 camera
HP photosmart travel camera
Sony video camera
Plantronics Bluetooth headset
Sirius satellite radio

Consumers think category not experience. Read my previous post on the subject:



"iPod was a new way to listen, store and buy music. The ultimate divergence device." Divergence? You can't be serious. The iPod combined digital music format, music player, affordable and legal music downloads, and eventaully tv/movie video. It brought together what in the late 90's and early millenia were disjointed puzzle pieces (convergence) via an easy, seemless user experience. Mac isn't a hardware or a software company, they are an "Exeperience" selling company. That's what they're selling via the iPhone, a new communications experience. Phone/video/internet/music are all forms of communication, this is a natural convergence, and if the iPhone experience is right (no keypad, just intuitive pinching, pulling, and tapping interface) it'll be a huge success. Until we experience it, we won't know. As Armano says, it's the Experience Economy


Hey Jarrett:

Do you open wine bottles with your Swiss Army knife? How is your Apple TV working? Do you watch TV on your cellphone? Do you drive a flying car to work? Do you drink C2 from Coca-Cola?

There are a few times where convergence works but it is only where convenience is the real desire.

Quality, price, and selection are usually given up to gain convenience.

Think "convenience" store. You might buy milk there but it doesn't replace the grocery store and doesn't have better selection, quality or price. There are only a few places where this works.

Another is the combination shampoo-conditioner. Is is better to use separate products but many people use the combo because it is easier. But most still use separate products.

Jarrett Green

I guess I haven't read this blog enough to know all of your points regarding the death of convergence. I think, however, on this post, you are off base.

I laughed a bit when I read "The iPhone will do a lot of things but it will do nothing well." Such a finite point, it was humorous. Perhaps a bit hyperbole? It seems you're locked into your own sound bites that as soon as you hear a "trouble" word, the talking points roll out.

I think the iPhone will do very well. Apple has always prided itself in doing the "little things" well. Redoing the basics - basics that have been multiplied a thousand times over without anyone questioning if they are worthy of being the basics. I see that in the iPhone.

It also seems to me that it's a disservice, and perhaps a lie?, to say that convergence never works. Convergence seems to be the inevitable reality in a world that is becoming smaller, faster, and more accessible.

I for one, welcome convergence - the idea behind the iPhone is to make my life simpler, even if it's just a few minor things - and I like that. Perhaps (as a 25 year old) it's a generation thing. Who knows?

Susan Gunelius (MarketingBlurb.com)

I think one of the main problems with too much publicity before a product launches is raising people's expectations too high. With growing anticipation comes growing expectation.

Movies are a great example. When the first movie in a trilogy, for example, comes out, no one has any expectations. The movie stands on its own, but once the publicity starts for sequels, people's expectations rise and each movie has to be better than the one before it for the audience to give it a good review.

Product expectations work similarly. The longer we wait, the more we expect, especially when the publicity says the product will change the world of personal communications (or whatever pie-in-the-sky hype Apple/AT&T have going now).

Scott Miller

Cameras in cell phones are fine because no one buys a camera phone expecting it to replace their camera. The camera is there merely for pure convenience, such as adding someone's head shot to their phone number for caller ID.

Likewise, I don't think the iPhone is meant to replace iPods or anything other than an older cell phone. It's additional features will be there merely for convenience. If I buy an iPhone I will only care about the phone usability itself, and not these convergence features, which so many phones already have anyway (the Blackjack and so on).

In other words, the iPhone will fail or succeed based almost solely on the phone itself, and whether the touchscreen makes the phone itself that much easier and cooler to use.

Laura Ries

Actually the last product that got this much hype was the Segway, that would have been my answer.

The Segway failed because it tried to appeal to everyone and never defined in a simple way what it was.

Hype, PR and buzz are all good in moderation but without a powerful focused idea, you won't build a brand in the mind.


"And let's face it," Ries said. "The last product that got this much hype was the Ford Edsel."”

Really? The last product that I can remember that got this much pre-launch hype was Windows 95. That seemed to do ok for MSFT.

Consumers generally don't want convergence products because the manufacturers cut too many features due to design limitations. The result is a half-baked product. But from what I can tell, Apple is releasing 3 'complete' devices in one -- all of which interact more or less seamlessly. Granted, I haven't had one in my hands yet...

greg gillispie

Convergence failing. Look for a new product on the shelves very soon - a holster that allows you to put every conceivable communication & entertainment device you carry at your fingertips. Quick - draw.


This is not the first multi purpose device with similar specs that is coming out into the market. The same way that the iPod was, entering an already bludgeoning mp3 player space. But Apple showed the ability to take themselves to a stratospheric level. Going by that, I am sure the public cannot be satiated by any kind of pre release criticism.
After release downfall due to product failure is a different scenario. But pre release... sorry... Apple have the consumers where they want... at the core


I did not say that mixed martial arts athletes didn't train hard or weren't skilled. I was just mirroring what Jon Stewart said, that it is hard to watch because you don't know what to look for. Each disciple has rules and a particular form, when you combine them all together it ends up with guys rolling on floor and you don't know what you are watching.

I do have plenty to say about Ultimate Fighting. Despite the convergence problem, the promoters have done a superjob in building the brand. For starters the new category name is fantastic. But that is a whole other topic.

Also, indeed Jon was not referencing the iPhone specifically but combination phones in general. The iPhone just being the latest entry. It is a phone, music, video, email combination device. Meant to replace or support other devices. (You can only have one phone per phone number)

iPod was a new way to listen, store and buy music. The ultimate divergence device.

iPhone is a phone plus other features, the ultimate convergence device. After all it is called iPHONE.

Only time will tell if the iPhone succeeds like the iPod or fails like the Newton.

No one knows the future. We can only take our best guess. And I've made mine.

JA de Rio

Regarding the Mixed Martial Art section. These athletes actually do train and practice each art individually. For instance, they will practice wrestling at the best wrestling school, practice boxing with the best boxing coach, practice their Jiu Jitsu with the best Jiu Jitsu professor and so on.

These martial arts complement each other and of course each athlete will have his or her forté. Some are better boxers and some are better wrestler.

Mixed martial arts or Vale Tudo (Anything Goes) which is a better term is not about form or art. It's about winning.

But when these atheletes practice the different martial arts separetly, you can be sure that they do have good form and the art's integrity is maintained.

Lara, it would be as if the cavalry started displaying form and artistry on the battle field.

They don't have time for that as the reason these men and women are on horses is to defend their country from the ennemy and not to showcase their equestrian prouesses, something they reserve for the Queen when she's visiting their headquarters.

I'll stop now....

johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

Kudos Laura for having the gall to predict failure for the iPhone. As a long-time reader of the Ries take on convergence, I agree that the most successful products are usually born out of divergence and not convergence. The iPhone is going to be a big-time test. History is on your side. However, the Apple force is strong. While the Newton flopped, it did foreshadow today's converged Blackberry devices.

Again kudos for taking a strong stand.

I'm curious though, how will you measure "failure" for the iPhone? What timetable are you working against? Conversely, how are you defining success for the iPhone?

rick gregory

Stewart's comment had nothing to do with the iPhone - the topic of the skit was mixed martial arts, thanks. Oh and camera phones are wildly popular... so as an illustration of how combined devices fail in the market it's not just a poor example it's actually a counterexample.

The entire discussion around convergence is irrelevant - there's not just one way to combine things, hence there's no one thing called convergence. The idea behind the iPhone seems to be making the basic phone experience both much easier and much more aware of how people really do things, e.g. touching a phone number to call that number, combined with other popular activities (watching video, listening to music) and location aware things like mapping.

One of the surest ways to fail is to just give people what they ask for. But hold it... they didn't ask for the web. Or IM. Or blogs. Or computers on their desktops. Or Facebook, or Myspace or Netflix or...

Virtually the entire technology industry is built on creating cool new things that people didn't know they might want. Whether the iPhone will be one of these things is something that we'll start seeing within a few weeks and will know for certain within a year.

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