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Tim Cook is a genius: Why there’s no iPhone 5 just yet

The world is “disappointed” with the new Apple iPhone 4S.

You haven’t been able to read or watch any reporting about the event (aside from boring, sober reportage) without hearing talking heads expound their “disappointment,” and wax lyrical about the “market’s muted response” and how Apple “failed to wow”.

It’s an evolutionary upgrade to a product that has been on the market for 14 months. Nothing revolutionary. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, had Apple announced a must-have device it would’ve alienated the 100-million-odd iPhone 4 owners. Can you imagine the resentment you’d feel? Your device is only a year old!

No carrier would want millions of disenchanted subscribers who are only halfway through a two-year contract.

The carriers are smart. Apple is smart.

But it’s more than that.

Ignore the products. Ignore the features. Ignore iCloud.

It’s naïve to think that we’ve only begun to see Tim Cook’s impact at Apple. Sure, he’s been in the CEO seat since 24 August, but he’s spent nearly five years obsessed with Apple’s supply chain as its Chief Operating Officer.

Apple has spent 18 months almost wholly focused on its supply chain. Obsessed with it. That means getting millions and millions (and millions of devices) ready for a simultaneous global launch.

This is the first time we’re seeing an iPhone launch in more than five countries on the same day. The iPhone 4S will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK next Friday. It will launch in a further 22 countries before the end of the month (only two-weeks later).

By December, it will be available in more than 70 countries, on over 100 carriers. Cook called it the “fastest rollout ever”. (Based on previous launches, it’s fairly safe to assume South Africa falls within that group of the first 70 countries).

But you need to go back to the launch of the iPhone 4 to witness Cook’s magic. The iPhone 4 was released in the US, France, Germany, Japan and the UK on June 24 last year. Apple added 17 countries in July, and kept adding countries to the end of the year (including China and South Africa in September). Rollout to larger markets (top 70 or so) was staggered over more than four months.

Then came the iPad 2 launch which saw those launch timelines compress further. iPad 2 launched in the US on March 11, and 25 more countries a fortnight after that. More countries (including South Africa) were added in April. Here we saw a rollout in over two months.

With iPhone 4S, we’re seeing far more aggressive rollout, especially to the larger markets (tier one) where there have been shortages and delays in the past.

Cook is a genius. It’s in the numbers.

Admittedly, this time was easy. An incremental upgrade to the iPhone with many of the same components (including casing and screen) meant a faster production ramp up (and almost no chance of leaks).

Expect Apple to work even harder on its production ramp-up. Quarter after quarter it manages to sell every device (both iPhone and iPad) that it can make. (Even the new generation iPods are already available globally!)

The real challenge is next year with the iPhone 5.

Besides, Apple doesn’t really care what you “hoped” to see…

(Hat tip to @anicehassim for planting this seed many months ago

Image: PictureBulk

Author | Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

Hilton Tarrant: Columnist
Hilton Tarrant is production editor at Moneyweb. His main focus is project management for the listed company’s local and international websites, and contributes to their strategic direction. From time-to-time, he also fills in for Alec Hogg on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb radio programme. In between, he covers... More
  • Abe

    I don’t get why people are so hung up by the name. I take it that if they had the exact same product but called it iPhone 5 instead everyone would be blown away?
    What if the next one is called the “iCommunicator”. Will people still feel ripped off because there was no iPhone5?

  • Anon

    The reason people are disappointed is because they wanted a response to the Galaxy S2. The 4S doesn’t seem to be all that, and the the new Nexus phone hasn’t even been announced yet, we are also looking forward to the bendable amoled displays from Samsung early next year. Way to squander your lead Apple. Expect to see Android double its lead next year.

  • Flavster

    just want a better phone not the fastest distributed phone

  • Anon

    The Galaxy S2 is a prime example of a company listening to what their customers wanted and then delivering such a phone. The 4s is a prime example of a company not listening to what their customers were asking for but instead just doing what they feel best.

  • AppSherpas

    @abe +1 the spec of the iPhone 4 is everything people were speculating upon for the iPhone 5 except for a tear shaped design and a larger screen. Both in my opinion would have degraded the quality of the product.

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