The Apple iPhone finally crosses the Atlantic. Well at least on paper O2 (owned by Telefónica , Spain) have signed themselves on board as exclusive distributors for the device in the UK. Similar arrangements are expected with TMobile (unit of Deutsche Telekom) and Orange (unit of France Télécom ) in other European markets.

Apple have employed a rather disruptive strategy in Europe and hope to leverage on the iPhone buzz to send sales rocketing, Over 1 million units have been reportedly sold in the US with targets of 10 million worldwide by end of 2008. The UK mobile phone market has been driven by subsidised or free handsets to contract subscribers and ensuring a revenue base from monthly subscription fees. With the iPhone however Apple insisted on a standard retail price, perhaps maintaining the exclusivity. O2 is offering the gadget on an 18 months contract, it will be interesting to see how their tariffs compensate the premium being paid for the handset. What makes the scenario more thrilling is the involvement of the Carphone Warehouse, a well established mobile phone and telecommunication services retailer in the UK. Apparently Apple felt that O2′s sales network was not good enough. On the whole it is clear that Apple is diversifying its partnerships in the hope of maximising returns.

Another point of interest is the relative speed at which Apple has introduced a new product, the iPod Touch, which basically is an iPhone without the GSM abilities. Perhaps a bit of product differentiation but the relative speed with which they’ve solidified their framework in Europe suggests that they are probably trying to maximise sales amidst the current hazy pictures the markets are projecting. It just could be that propensities for non essential devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch fall as other savings, mortgages and the likes are prioritised.

The iPhone is a decent gadget, no doubt, but will it break into markets well established by Nokia, SonyEriccson and RIM? On the enterprise mobility sector, certainly no! The iPhone simply does not have enough juice to quench the demands of business elite. The biggest downfall has been attributed to its 2.5G radio which Apple desired over power hungry 3G radios. What that means is that out of a WiFi hotspot internet connectivity is painfully slow. Its biggest shortcomings though are its inability to natively integrate with enterprise services search as e-mail, VoIP e.t.c , it does not offer encryption services and Apple have unfortunately decided to lockup its architecture, so we are not going to see clever bits on ingenuity from the rest of world . True, there’s a way round this via the web browser but there’s certain flexibility offered by other devices that makes peoples’ lives a lot more easier.

So its not a business phone and perhaps a tad bit too advanced for my grandmother to use. Its just one of those fashion statements, early adopter flash and bling trend setting devices. Well something along those lines. It perhaps is a whole lot easier to use after some conditioning than many more devices around. But its not perfect, let us put it this way, it just does some things better than the rest.

Will it sell? Yes, as a mass consumer device. Will it sell as well as the iPod? Mmh! Probably no, there’s no iPod magic here unless Apple are seeing what others are not. Maybe the second or third generation iPhone’s will have what it takes to change the world, but for now the mobile phone industry remains extremely segmented, adding another niche answers some questions and alienates others.

Brace yourself for a whole lot of iPhone look alikes. Most will perhaps just be appalling reproductions but there is the possibility for really cool gadgets out there and that does not necessarily have to come from Apple. Our vision for that device is one that runs on a basic hardware skeleton and massively configurable software platform and services that lets users mould the phone along their requirements and pay for exactly what they need. The iPhone is not ready for business yet but it certainly is a pleasure!

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iPhone; Business, Pleasure or Both?



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