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the future of phones? more like computers?

October 30, 2007

I was interested to see Steve Wozniak weighing in on the iPhone debate in this interview with "Laptop magazine":

L: Is there anything you would change about the iPhone?
I think it could be more like a computer. It should be open like a computer. Anyone should be able to develop their own games and programs on it. And keep the phone and the phone services off guard so it's protected.
L: So you're in favor of the unlocking and jailbreaking for third-party applications?
From a business point of view, Apple owns what they have done. They have a right to lock it. But I am really for the unlockers, the rebels trying to make it free. I'd really like it to be open to new applications. I'd like to install some nice games. Why in the world can I not install a ringtone that I've made? How would that hurt AT&T's network? Here is Steve Jobs sending letters to the record companies saying [they] should provide music that's unprotected, but here he is taking the opposite approach with the iPhone. I don't know to what extent AT&T is involved in the thinking and direction.
I guess Steve Jobs must be accustomed to his old business partner taking a contrarian point of view.
As Wozniak points out, it's Apple's prerogative to lock the phone they created… but I have a gut feeling that the evolution of phones towards being more open platforms is unstoppable. At some point I would expect phone manufacturers to come around to the idea that the customer wants to put his own applications on the device that he bought. And if the customer is always right, then who are we to disagree?
I'm going to force a topic change here – and I will admit that this is a somewhat clumsy segue into the topic of "customer experience" – but I wanted to point out that  my colleague, Bruce Temkin has given some thought to the question "Is the customer always right?"
His conclusion?
Bruce points out that it makes sense to bend rules for your most valuable customers. But here's my question – What about the ones who aren't valuable yet? Maybe companies could decide their willingness to bend rules based on the "lifetime value" of a customer rather than on the most recent transactions… .
There is one bank in the UK that I will avoid for the rest of my life because of their failure to cut me some slack when I was a penniless student. If they'd been more prescient, they could have kept me as a loyal customer …. now that I'm a penniless analyst. (OK, I guess I've just failed to proved my theory with that example).

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