Steve J. has undoubtedly scored a big success with the iPhone. Even if few of them are currently visible in everyday life. Or, more to the point, in everyday corporate America.
A recent report stirred up the iPhiles with claims that business users cannot come to grips with the phone's glass-like keyboard. Regardless of whether you fully subscribe to its claims, the article does lay a finger on an important weakness of the iPhone – namely that fat, corporate-styled digits find it difficult to navigate its tightly dimensioned virtual keys. Finger whittling is a solution, though one that is unlikely to catch on among executives.
Sneaky Business tapped into our advisory board to seek alternative ways to buff up the iPhone's corporate appeal. After a long weekend of closed door sessions, brainstorming and intensive drinking they came up with their top-five list of ideas. Let's hope that one enterprising VC has the guts to fund one of them:
- Key-set truncation: Offer only alternate letters from a full QWERTY keyboard. Resulting space between the keys is sufficient for even the pudgiest of fingers. End user only has to type half the number of letters – and built-in software can extrapolate best-fit words.
- Keyboard projector: Built in mini-projector displays enlarged keyboard image onto any surface. Wii-style motion sensors detect keys selected and record entry into phone. May add slightly to bill of materials ($60) – but Apple should be able to pass on at least $90 of this to consumers as an improved "lifestyle choice".
- Voice keyboard: Keyboard image maintained on screen, but user has to speak individual letters. Built-in speech-to-text engine converts spoken word to screen letters.
- Outsourced text-assistants: For severely keyboard-challenged executives. Personalized 1-800 number transfers user to Indian call center staffed with "transcription experts". User dictates message, and words are instantly transcribed back onto the screen.
- RIM-emulation engine: Users type message into their RIM Blackberry device. Service then forwards the message to their iPhone, so that user can have "satisfaction" of sending it from sexier device.
Even with these options, our advisors remained unconvinced about the chances of the iPhone. "Corporate users need their core applications – Outlook, SAP, Siebel, Gears of War. Without at least one of those it will remain a very nice to have"
[Sneaky Business is currently assessing an iPhone device. We'll bring you our opinions in a later piece. Rest assured, none of our fingers will be modified during the trial.]