The order process for the iPhone 4 put together by Apple and AT&T rates a 1 out of 10 at best. A lot of promotion went into the “pre-order” process to encourage us all to place our orders on June 15. Like many, I started out at 6 AM with the best of loyal intentions. Thirteen hours later after many attempts I was finally able to get the order registered at the Apple Store and now look forward to the June 24th delivery.
When it comes to design, software integration, ease of use, and dominance of music and app distribution, Apple is king of the hill. When it comes to offering cloud services, such as MobileMe, and a scaleable server environment for huge onslaughts of order activity, Apple seems to fall down consistently.This is not a good sign moving forward. A poorly executed once a year first day order process may not harm the Apple market dominance but there are things on the horizon that will critical every day of every year for most every Apple customer. (See excellent story “Why Aren’t I the Center of the Apple Universe?” by Matt Buchanan).
The central role of iTunes has to evolve to the Cloud. To require a new iPad or iPhone 4 user to have to plug in cables and connect their new Apple device to a PC or Mac in order to get music and apps onto the device is starting to look and feel a bit old-fashioned. Why can’t the music and apps synchronize “over the air” like the Google contacts, calendar, and gmail emails do? It is clear that this is where things are headed and the question is whether Apple is ready.
There are several challenges to make a Cloud services vision possible. First is an iTunes redesign that permits Cloud services for iPads, iPod Touches, and iPhones but which also permits the local attachment of devices such as iPod Nanos and Shuffles which do not have their own communications capabilities. Secondly is whether there is sufficient bandwidth at the user end, at AT&T (and other carriers) and at Apple to enable all the music and apps to traverse over the air. Finally is the question of whether Apple can create a Cloud services infrastructure that is sufficiently robust to provide the services that will be needed. Their capabilities to handle the order inflow of the new iPhone 4 suggests that Apple has a long way to go in this last dimension.
Could be that AT&T is part of the order entry problem. The failures in the process did seem to me to occur when I got to the step where eligibility had to be checked with the carrier. AT&T has a particularly bad web site. Talk about confusing. You can’t tell if you are at att.com, att.net, att.uverse.com, uverse.com, at a section for consumer, small business, enterprise, or whitepages.com. The big picture is clear that the mobile Internet is evolving rapidly. No longer is the Internet where our PC is — the Internet is where we are. Apple is pushing the envelope into this new space. AT&T is dragging along their legacy. As consumers and employees of businesses we will gain trememdously from this new found mobility afforded by the Internet.