When WOW Becomes Not-WOW

When Apple introduced the original iPhone last summer, it was a complete WOW experience. People expected a new phone, but their expectations were shaped entirely by their previous experiences with cell phones. As a result, Apple exceeded the market’s expectations. The company reinvented the cell phone and WOWed the market.

3G iPhone

Among other things, Apple redefined voice mail and Web browsing on a mobile device. The company married a phone to an iPod and threw in an amazing touch-screen interface to boot. The device has proven so popular that Apple has sold five million phones in the last year.

Today, Steve Jobs announced a new version of the iPhone at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). For the past several weeks, the press and the pundits have speculated about exactly what he would introduce.

The consensus seemed to be that the new iPhone would include 3G network capabilities, GPS, third-party apps, a push email and calendar system, a slimmer design, and a lower price. And, that’s exactly what Apple delivered. This time, however, they only met the market’s expectations. Consequently, my sense is that people were not WOWed. They were left a little, well, underwhelmed.

As I pointed out in my post last week, The How of WOW, creating WOW experiences is all about exceeding the customer’s current expectations. A year ago—before the first iPhone was announced—today’s announcement would have blown people’s socks off. But unfortunately, yesterday’s WOW experience is today’s expectation. For Jobs to have WOWed people today, he needed to exceed their current expectations. In my opinion, he didn’t do that. As a result, not-WOW.

Evidently, I am not alone. Apple’s stock price fell $4.03 or 2.17% today. The crazy thing is that the new 3G iPhone compared to any other mobile device is amazing. By any other standard—except Apple—this is a WOW product. (And, for the record, I do plan to buy one.) Such are the perils of delivering WOW experiences. You must keep raising the bar or people will be disappointed.

Update: The presentation is much more WOW when you watch it than when you merely hear about. Maybe I am just falling under the influence of Steve’s “reality distortion field.”

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