For weeks, I’ve been hearing Apple fanboys pan Verizon’s Motorola Droid ads as too geeky and unappealing for the mass market. I’ve been hearing fanboys claim that nongeeks can’t understand “open development”, that they’d be scared off by images of stealth bombers. Then I read an essay by Paul Graham about the abuses of the iPhone app store, and I suddenly realize the genius of Verizon’s nongeek-alienating marketing strategy.
At least we know now what it would take to break Apple’s lock. You’d have to get iPhones out of programmers’ hands. If programmers used some other device for mobile web access, they’d start to develop apps for that instead.
How could you make a device programmers liked better than the iPhone? It’s unlikely you could make something better designed. Apple leaves no room there. So this alternative device probably couldn’t win on general appeal. It would have to win by virtue of some appeal it had to programmers specifically.
The value of today’s smartphones is as much in the applications as it is in the hardware. By very specifically targeting geeks and apparently alienating normal people for now, Verizon is building developer and influencer loyalty. More developers using the phone means more cool apps for the phone; more influencers using the phone means more viral buzz about the phone. More than the iPhone’s shiny mass marketing, those two factors will slowly but surely lead to greater market share.
It’s a strategy almost as stealthy as the stealth bombers in the second Droid ad. As history shows us, wherever the geeks go, normal people eventually follow.
So go ahead, Apple fanboys. Call Android phones “too geeky”. Such anti-intellectual complacency will hasten the iPhone’s developer exodus and eventual downfall.