The iPhone: Apple’s best defence

iPhone

A friend of mine works as a news journalist for PA out in New York, and as Apple’s iPhone is due for launch very soon, he’s writing a story and asked me for some thoughts on it.

It’s always interesting to help out with someone’s research, as it gives you an opportunity to give some order to your own thoughts.

I think that Apple seems to be in a very strong position at the moment – but the interesting thing is that it’s not necessarily a secure one, and this is where the iPhone comes in. More and more people are listening to digital music on their mobile phones, and as the phones get better in terms of functions and storage, this will happen in greater numbers, and it will erode the market for an iPod. Sony Ericsson has been very aggressive with this, using the Sony Walkman brand for its phones. The mobile phone networks also now offer music downloads straight to the phone, which the iPod, forever tethered to a PC or Mac’s iTunes, doesn’t currently offer. The simplicity of just having one device to carry, rather than both a phone and an iPod also appeals to people. The iPhone has full iPod features, so it’s a good way to counter this trend.

Secondly, it’s now a lot easier to do a lot more online, and the web doesn’t care what computer – PC or Mac – that it’s running on, which threaten Apple’s computer business, as does the fact that more and more people are using their phones to access the web. So, naturally, the iPhone is being pushed as being great for mobile internet, and again, it’s making sure that Apple is keeping abreast of changes in the way people use technology, the way it fits into their lives, and also, has a product to offer them.

While Apple is pushing the iPhone as a revolutionary device, it’s actually a typical Apple product in that it’s being launched into an existing, but fairly obscure/geeky market, and it will try and make it more popular. Microsoft, after all, has been releasing versions of its Windows Mobile software since the year 2000.

In order for the iPhone to be a good iPod, and a good mobile web device, Apple will have made trade offs, just as they did with the iPod, and the screen is the biggest area where you can see this. The iPhone’s touchscreen is going to be great for scrolling through songs, images and web pages, and of course it frees up space to have a massive display. It’s probably not going to be so good for entering text or numbers though, but I think Apple has decided these aren’t of primary importance – after all, most people store all their numbers in the address book, and with the iPod and internet functions being so important, the control system has to be perfect for them.

The question of whether the iPhone is a success for the Apple as a company isn’t going to be answered for a while – but regardless of how well it actually does, I think the iPhone will end up being a transitional product: if it flops, Apple will stick to computers and iPods and home media stuff. If it succeeds then you can bet there will be a lot more ultra mini computers on the way. The iPhone is just a test.

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