In trouble, tech CEO? Bash the iPhone

Two honchos with their own cell phone difficulties -- Nokia's Stephen Elop and BlackBerry's Thorsten Heins -- decide to deflect by knocking Apple. Is this wise?

Stephen Elop, iPhone tosser. YouTube Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

I've spent the whole week uttering rude words at my iPhone 5.

Some had four letters, some have had fewer. Several had four syllables. All were expressions of utter disdain, frustration or disappointment.

I'm very suggestible, you see. And this week, two very clever tech CEOs publicly denigrated Apple's lucky charm, making it seem like it was the result of a couple of parts that had fallen off a Segway.

First, there was BlackBerry's Thorsten Heins, who declared that the iPhone user interface is as old as Jay Leno's jokes. Well, his actual words were : "The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about, is now five years old."

Then there was Nokia's Stephen Elop. He appeared on a Finnish talk show, on which he grabbed the host's iPhone and tossed it to the ground, muttering that it was "a dangerously retrograde, complete heap of steaming dung from an aging carthorse."

No, of course he didn't quite put it like that. But he did call it "embarrassing."

I spent several hours with the curtains drawn wondering why these two fine tech executives would suddenly choose to pour scorn on the iPhone. Perhaps it's become popular these days to do this.

Some believe there is frustration at Apple with future innovation. Some believe that Samsung's bigger screens have made the iPhone look a touch passe.

Yet it's odd that Heins and Elop (which sounds like the title of a Scandinavian children's book series; sample: "Heins and Elop Go Fishing") would be the ones criticizing.

If anything, they're two CEOs who are themselves under scrupulous scrutiny for a certain lack of soaring success.

BlackBerry's Z10 hasn't yet excited the whole world to turn back to the brand. Even noted BlackBerry lover, Eric Schmidt, seems to be sticking with the older model with the lumpy keyboard.

As for Nokia, well, I think of it as the lover I should have married, but am glad I didn't. Once, it produced lovely phones. Then it seemed to lose interest in many of its customers, preferring to wander and wallow, rather than inspire.

Now, the phones seem quite interesting again. Yet the lack of certain apps has become so concerning that Nokia has resorted to begging the puppies at Instagram to make a Windows Phone app.

Both BlackBerry and Nokia are, at least, trying to make phones that aren't iPhone copies. Yet it's hard not to imagine that the disdain these CEOs are showing for the iPhone is born of their own frustrations.

Their brands have been put into corners by swifter innovation on the part of others. Their CEOs know that they have to find some way to return to the zeitgeist. Yet they fear becoming the zeitghost.

Within the whole genre of smartphones, there seems to be less excitement anyway. So Heins and Elop try to push their carts uphill and their quadriceps begin to feel very tired.

They become frustrated. They become annoyed.

Heins turns to Elop and says: "It's that darned iPhone's fault." Which, in a way, it is.

 

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