The Less Obvious Impact the iPhone Will Have

"Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote, demo of upcoming Leopard and Safari for Windows may have generated a lot of oohs and ahhs, but it was towards the end that His Jobness revealed the game plan to irreversibly change the world of wireless."

Om has a post on 5 ways the iPhone will change the wireless business. I am going to wait at least until the actual device launches at the end of this month before declaring it a transformational industry experience, but I am generally bullish on Apple’s prospects here. However, let’s keep some perspective here, the iPhone is a super premium device that will appeal to a niche market segment.

Apple has sold 100 million iPods over the history of that product line but mobile phones scale to a whole new level. The entire industry sells almost 1 BILLION devices a year, so even the most optimistic estimates of between 15-20 million iPhones shipping a year are but a drop in the bucket.

There are two dimensions to the story that are worth looking at, and also are intertwined. From the WWDC keynote, Jobs indicated something subtle but important, that in order for mobile apps to be the success they are perpetually declared to be on the brink of it is essential to move the development of those applications out of mobile-specific frameworks. In other words, give developers web development tools to build mobile apps in rather than mobile app development tools:

“… And we’ve come up with a very innovative new way to create applications for mobile devices… it’s all based on the fact that we have the full Safari engine in the iPhone. And so you can write amazing Web 2.0 and AJAX apps that look and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone, and these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services.”

Tristian Louis goes into more detail on what Apple is doing with the Safari platform with the iPhone.

Secondly, it will come as no great surprise to anyone that the biggest impediment to broad-based mobile application success is the carriers themselves. Apple alone won’t solve this problem, indeed you could argue that Apple is actually compounding the problem by "double locking" the device not only at the carrier level but also at the platform. Having said that, the leverage that Apple enjoys in any carrier discussions basically ensures that the device will ship with what Apple wants on it rather than what the carrier doesn’t want.

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