Road Warrior for Reals

As you can see there’s an ongoing love/hate saga with my phone. Despite what I say, I like the iPhone a lot and once they iron out the kinks with future releases I’ll be more than happy. Having the iPhone makes me want to be a businessman again. Traveling about from meeting to meeting, scheduling appointments, attending events etc. I could have really used this phone back then. We’ve had email on our phones here in Japan since forever but nothing really puts it together like the iPhone. To be honest, I don’t think the iPhone is quite ready to storm mainstream Japan. I still remember quite vividly how the initial line of people waiting for the iPhone were mid 30s IT types and all the people I know who own an iPhone are heavy geeks. The other day I logged into Mixi, Japan’s largest social network, to check out the iPhone community and was shocked to see so many people who wanted to sell their iPhones. The most common complaints were, “I just can’t figure out how to use all these features” or “my computer is incompatible/don’t have a computer”.

The youth have a whole different “keitai (Japanese for cell phone) culture” that abandoning would mean nothing short of social suicide. The iPhone isn’t compatible with the pictographic mail characters implemented by all the companies nor can it access all the “keitai” web sites that Japanese students spend so much time on. On the other hand, the potential of the iPhone as a businessman’s tool is awesome.

Despite all the recent complaints I’ve seen about MobileMe, to me this service is one of the saving graces that kept me sane when it came time to reset my iPhone to factory settings. All I did was log into my MobileMe account on the phone and gradually my entire address book materialized out of thin air with all my calendars intact (I wish they had notes sorted out as well). For the first time I can recall, I can literally add or edit my contacts or calendars on the home mac, on the iPhone, or from a work computer and still remain synced.

The only real danger here is going overboard and burning out with all this at your fingertips. So far 70,000 iphones have shipped in Japan so far but part of it is pent up demand since this is the first model to ship ever and still the U.S. shipped roughly 10 fold including owners who upgraded from previous models. I’m really not sure how much the iPhone will end up appealing to the fickle Japanese consumer market and have a feeling that they wont be making inroads into the youth market any time soon but I see great potential for the harried business people here, especially sales people (who have notoriously grueling sales calls to attend to since the typical Japanese sales person has to do lots of cold calls) and executives who are always out and about. The beauty of the iPhone for a sizable company they can connect their in-house systems via iPhone apps to achieve greater efficiency. Of course, it’s questionable whether Japanese companies would pursue this kind of efficiency on their own but consultants have a great opportunity to push a variety of custom solutions involving the iPhone.

I’ve read comments from two Japanese CEOs marveling about the fact that they not only didn’t have to open their PCs while on the road but also didn’t have much to do when they did finally get back to their desks. I’m pretty confident that I could operate a side business off this phone. It’s that good for enterprise. Unfortunately, Apple really doesn’t have that “enterprise” feel. Too stylish and bold. Plus, they need to fix a bunch of crap before they push their products to business. Of course, these days I play more and more sudoku on the iPhone and I suppose that would be an added allure for business types, they could be playing games and watching movies while shuttling from one sales call or appointment to the next and still not miss those phone calls.

I think Apple can really expand the enterprise side of the iPhone if they wanted to. It would probably involve the development of some kind of external keyboard and stealing some of BlackBerry’s input tricks that make thumb jockey’s lives easier.