Sunday, March 24, 2013

Insults are the sincerest form of flattery. And one of the surest indications of success. Why execs should shut up.

Mobile executives can say the meanest things about their competitors' products. But for those product managers on the receiving end of such pejoratives, I have good news for you: there tends to be a near 100% negative correlation to negative comments.

Yes, you know that you really hit a nerve when some top-level manager at a competing company dismisses your product as a nonstarter. And one of the absolute greatest leading indicators of success is when an executive mentions your impending failure during a quarterly results call. You should be so lucky to get that. (My advice is to humble it out on both ends.)

Here is a limited selection of some entertaining opinions, past and present. There are more, but let's start with the obvious. I'll call this list the top-ten failed failure forecasts. (Give it time.)

- Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, 2007: The iPhone has “no chance” of gaining significant market share.

- Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, 2011: You need to be a “computer scientist” to use an Android smartphone. (Android now has around 70% platform share, Windows Phone 3%.)

- Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, 2008: Apple's iPhone is a “niche” product.

- Nokia Executive Vice President Anssi Vanjoki, 2009: The iPhone has a “toy camera.”

- Apple's Tim Cook, Jan 2011: “We're not that worried about” Android tablets. (Apple had around 80% market share of tablets at the time.)

- Apple's Tim Cook: We're not worried about Amazon's Kindle.

- Apple's Phil Schiller, March 2013: “...Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old. Customers will have to wait to get an update.” Android is fragmented, unsafe, et cetera, et cetera.

- HTC Chief Marketing Officer, Benjamin Ho, March 2013: Samsung's Galaxy S 4 “is more of the same.” (Early indicators show that S 4 sales are much stronger than the S III, which in itself was one of the best-selling smartphones ever.)

- BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, March 2013: Apple's iPhone/iOS is “five years out of date.”

- And finally, here is some good news for Google's Chrome OS, criticism from Ballmer:
So, how silly will Mr. Ballmer's opinion look in five years from now?


Michael said...

Is the opposite also true, that a compliment from a competitor exec is a sign of irrelevance? I seem to remember, a couple of years ago, Stephen Elop taking comfort in the fact that Steve Jobs had said something positive about Windows Phone (that it was "interesting and different", or words to that effect). It struck me at the time that what he really meant was "interesting, different and not a threat to us".

Peter Bryer: Mobile Foresighter said...

Good point Michael. By the way, I still think that impressive-looking WebOS device from Palm is going to take the market by storm.