Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Ovum breaks the iPod cellphone embargo?

The New York Times is carrying a story that suggested to some people, including me, that Ovum had broken the embargo on Motorola's iPod phone. Our initial guess was that one of the firms involved forgot to ask for an NDA when briefing Ovum's Roger Entner. Our reasoning was that Entner, a really seasoned analyst, would never do anything he had agreed not to do. So the most likely thing was that someone from the companies involved had briefed him, but not told him about an embargo.

Boy, were we wrong. Sorry Roger.

This is how we made our mistake. Since Apple hides from analysts, and Motorola's AR seems highly professional, our money was on Cingular Wireless as the guilty party - and not only because Entner followed that firm while at Yankee. Cingular's top managers have always fought shy of the analysts. Rather than putting serious effort into AR, they gave AR as an extra job to the firm's team of media relations directors but without giving them the money, time, power or people needed to succeed. So we through they were the folk most likely to make the mistake.

And we also thought it would be a vendor's mistake because we also knew that Entner would not have broken an NDA or embargo he had agreed to. While Entner only arrived in Ovum's Boston office in April, he knows the rules - having earlier worked at Yankee. Ovum's sales and marketing people will be delighted to have made the New York Times -- and around 400 other papers worldwide -- all from one story.

In fact, we were wrong. As Roger explained to us, he wasn't briefed by any of the firms involved. Needless to say, he didn't break any NDAs or embargos (breaking an embargo you have not agreed to or even been told about -- that's a different issue). He obtained the information independently (maybe from John Sun's blog) and then the NYT reported it.

What the media did was to turn that into a news storm, focusing on the fact that the NYT had scooped the vendors. Unlike my thoughtful co-authors on ARmadgeddon, I am error-prone and jumped to the simplest explanation I could think of and I was wrong: not only factually but also professionally. My deepest apologies to Roger and the team at Cingular (you're back on my Christmas card list).

But all of this makes me want to ask another question: neither Apple, Motorola nor Cingular have briefed Entner about the biggest thing of the year?? After he's in 400 stories discussing their product?? What going on? Guys, you wanna borrow my phone?

P.S. An obvious solution here, borrowing from the open scene of The Matrix. Mail an iPod phone to Entner, with only your number in the address book, and then wait...


John said...

Thanks for the analysis. I posted about the news on Monday night and wondered in closing if Entner broke the embargo and whether anyone will talk to him again:

I didn't have the history behind the various players so this post has been very insightful...

Mobile Analyst Watch

Roger Entner said...

Just for the record: I did not break any NDA, embargo, nor used any privilaged information provided to me by any of the involved parties, Apple, Cingular, or Motorola. Neither me nor anyone at Ovum was ever briefed on the upcoming announcement regarding this launch.

Roger Entner

John said...


Thanks for providing your side of the story. Since I try to cover what analysts like yourself are saying in the media, I always have to remember that the journalist may not be reporting it correctly or accurately.


Roger Entner said...


Matt Richtel from the NY Times who broke the story initially did not misreport or misquote in the story. I did not track the other stories that spawned off it, hence I cannot say anything about their accuracy.


theARpro said...

Thanks for the update Roger, and for your email. We never thought that you would have done anything that you agreed to not do. That why our first thought was that someone would have given you that information without asking you to not disclose it.

However, that doesn't change the facts:
[1] you and the NYT broke the story before the vendors did, and that's clearly breaking the embargo, even if you were not a part to the embargo
[2] my post on this topic was totally mistaken - I guessed at what I thought was most likely, and my guess was way out.

I'll be rewriting this post to retract my mistakes. However, I think it's useful an honest to leave the comment here so that people can see that we made the mistake.

Roger Entner said...


Works for me. Thank you for your cooperation.


PS: You are in good company. Even the BBC has gotten the story wrong.

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