December 30, 2009, 9:42 AM — Tech punditry seems to be a remarkably consequence-free career. John Gruber may regularly serve up claim chowder in the wake of major Apple announcements, but few writers ever seem to suffer major blows to their reputation when they wildly mispredict the future course of events.
Nevertheless, it seems that some writers do have a conscience on this issue. For instance, it obviously nags at TechCrunch's MG Siegler that he dismissed the iPhone before it even arrived in 2007; he gave the world the Christmas present of extended apologia for this error, combined with a glowing assessment of the coming Apple Tablet, in an attempt to not make the same mistake twice.
BusinessWeek's Arik Hesseldahl has been scouring the vaults and has found quite a few instances of those who refused to acknowledge the iPhone's greatness in advance of its arrival. He too takes the lesson that the coming Tablet, mysterious as its appeal might be to us in these pre-Tablet days, should be treated with reverence and respect, because it's going to do something totally awesome that we can't even visualize yet.
I didn't have an Apple blog in 2007, so you're just going to have to take me at my word when I tell you that I was pretty sure that the iPhone was going to be a monster hit. My thinking was that Apple would take something that already had a niche in most people's lives -- a cell phone -- and it make much, much better. I stand on this solid track record when I tell you that I don't think the Apple Tablet will change the world in this way, simply because it has the much more ambitious task of creating a niche that doesn't quite exist as of yet. (For a perfectly good product will a similar dilemma, see the Apple TV.) I may be an Apple fanboy, but I certainly don't think the company is immune to failure; Forbes conveniently collected the instances when Apple failed, for your edification.
If by the end of next year the Apple Tablet has changed the way we all think about tablet computing, you may feel free to dig up this particular piece of claim chowder and feed it to me. I don't necessarily think such a product will be a terrible flop; I just doubt that it'll be a monster hit. The problem is that it's already a monster hit before it's arrived; anything short of that lead-in will backlash onto the company, and hard.