Life in the Technology Lane - 2193

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Apple iPhone: Life in the Technology Lane
Before Apple introduced the iPhone, it was hard for most people to imagine that they’d ever pay as much as $599 for a cell phone. But on June 29, 2007, Apple customers stood in line for hours to do just that, eager to be among the first to get their hands on the sleek new device dubbed “the God machine.” Newsweek columnist Steven Levy described how the proud new owners were “lofting their newly acquired iPhones in the air like they’d won the Stanley Cup.” Within the first three days alone, Apple sold 270,000 iPhones at premium prices ($499 for a 4GB model, $599 for 8GB), and CEO Steve Jobs was predicting that they’d cross the 10-million mark by the end of 2008.
Industry analyst Lev Grossman says that Jobs, who had already revolutionized the portable music player market with the iPod, turned his attention to mobile phones because he believed they were “broken.” And Jobs likes things that are broken, Grossman says. “It means he can make something that isn’t and sell it to you for a premium price.” And members of the “Apple Nation” have proven that they are willing to pay.
In a company of 20,000 employees, Apple has only one committee, and its job is to establish prices. In September of 2007, Jobs announced the decision to slash the price of the iPhone, even though it had only been 68 days since its launch. Company research had shown that it was priced too high for holiday shoppers. “If we don’t take that chance, we wait a whole other year,” Jobs explained. “We’re willing to make less money to get more iPhones out there.” The same iPhone that had sold for $599 would now cost $399. At the same press conference in San Francisco, Jobs introduced the new iPod nano, the iPod classic, and the iPod touch. The only thing that made headlines, however, was the unexpected iPhone price cut and stories of the consumer outrage that followed.
Elaine Soloway, a longtime Mac user, said, “Apple really infuriated their fans, the people who urge other people to buy Apple products. We are ambassadors for them.” Like Soloway, thousands of iPhone early adopters expressed their disappointment.
“This is life in the technology lane,” Jobs said in an attempt to defend the company’s decision to drop the price so soon. “There is always something better and less expensive on the horizon.” Some call it the curse of the early adopter. But usually they get bragging rights for more than two months before the masses can afford to buy the same product they paid a premium for. In an attempt to appease his angry customers, Jobs announced that those who paid the original price would now be eligible for a $100 refund in the form of store credit.
The store credit pleased some but wasn’t enough for others. One customer, who bought his iPhone only weeks before the price drop, said the $100 was merely a pay-off for being a sucker. “Steve Jobs actually put a price tag on my suckerdom—$200—and now he’s trying to drain off some of that embarrassment.”
The price cut didn’t just disappoint Apple’s core customers. Investors were concerned, as well, suspecting that the iPhone wasn’t selling as well as expected. Apple shares immediately fell $1.75 to $135.01 after the announcement. Industry analysts suggest that the price change could indicate that Apple, which has long been immune to the pricing wars among other personal computer companies, may have found the cell phone business more competitive than anticipated. Whatever the reasons, Jobs acknowledged, “We need to do a better job of taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price.”
The Cult of Mac shows no sign of waning in the aftermath of the company’s rare misstep, however. Customers love their iPhones, they say, and remain devoted to Apple as the arbiter of cutting-edge technology that is intuitively and beautifully designed. Sure, admits one loyal customer, “It sucks. But if they had told me then they were going to drop the price in a few months, I still would have bought it. I was obsessed.”

1. Apple CEO Steve Jobs alluded to the price a customer may have to pay to own an iPhone when he said that the steep and sudden price change was simply part of “life in the technology lane.” What did he mean? Beyond the simple exchange of money, what else might the price of such a product include?

2. Discuss the role that product demand played in pricing the iPhone. How did this demand influence Apple’s decision to price it high in the beginning and then lower it two months later?


3. Discuss how the availability of substitutes affects elasticity of demand for Apple products such as the iPhone.


4. How do you think the relationship of price to quality affects how customers perceive Apple products?

 

 

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1. Apple CEO Steve Jobs alluded to the price a customer may have to pay to own an iPhone when he said that the steep and sudden price change was simply part of “life in the technology lane.” What did he mean? Beyond the simple exchange of money, what else might the price of such a product include?

Answer:  The Apple iPhone price was cut. In September of 2007, Jobs announced the decision to slash the price of the iPhone, even though it had only been 68 days since its launch. Jobs CEO of Apple defended the Apple decision of cutting the price with the following reasons:

  • The early adopters have bagging rights for nearly two months.
  • They enjoyed the product before masses could afford it.
  • Jobs have r