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IBM-iPhone snafu examined

Vendors, like seventh graders,  fall all over themselves to seem cool. And in the process they end up looking more out of it than ever. Witness this week’s IBM-Apple PR debacle.

The  AP reported a few days ago that IBM would announce Notes/Domino for the iPhone this week at Lotusphere.  The universe picked up that story.

Well, Lotusphere came and no word re. IPhone. Now IBM spokespeeps are backing s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y away from the story.

The technology isn’t ready, they say. Only problem with that is since when has IBM ever waited for something to be truly ready before announcing it?

It’s too bad for Domino partners for whom iPhone connectivity might be a much-needed boost.  The news was probably very welcome; the retraction of said news not so much. Gartner and other analysts have skewered Apple for not making the iPhone a good corporate citizen so a Domino tie-in could help there even if it did cost the handheld some of its cache.

A betting person would wager that this is what happened. IBM, always anxious to seem hip, cool and happening (witness its Second Life fixation) couldn’t resist playing up the iPhone link. Apple was probably aboard —  in theory. What Apple most notoriously does not suffer gladly, however, is being pre-empted or short-circuited by stodgier, less cool rivals. If there is noise to be made, it had better be made by — or at least be controlled by — Apple. At minimum it must be done professionally.

But the leak nuked all that.  Within a nanosecond of that AP story , the alarms started ringing at Infinity Loop. And the kibosh was on.

Now IBM has some ‘splaining and groveling to do in Cupertino  before the iPhone connectivity hits. A very similar scenario played out last year over a Microsoft Exchange-to-iPhone connection. Microsoft leaked, Apple balked.

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