January 9th, 2007

Apple iPhone … what they didn’t say about the services

… and the questions I still have …

No discussion of the phone itself here … please refer to my colleague, Michael Gartenberg’s blog. He has a lot of posts about the iPhone. I will say though that I definitely want one. Was very cool.

My colleague David Card posted separately on the music capabilities.

I had the privilege of attending the Apple Inc.

MacWorld keynote today by Steve Jobs. As I sat there mesmerized by the amazing features, functionality, user interface (i.e., scrolling), sensors, etc., I kept asking myself, “Is Apple going to launch this as an unlocked phone? or with a carrier?” It was a very Apple-centric presentation. We knew early on it would be GSM as there was/is a slot for a SIM card (on the outside no less). Also, as soon as Jobs turned it on, we could see the “Cingular bars” at the top.

What we didn’t see was Jobs boot up the phone/turn it on. Will I see the familiar “apple” logo? or will I see the orange Cingular person/jacks symbol?

I didn’t see an icon on the “home” screen for Cingular.

Will iTunes begin selling games for the phone? Will glu and the rest develop games for the Apple platform? Will iTunes sell ring tones? (The demo’ed polyphonics were a bit ‘yesterday’ … I was waiting for him to go into the iTunes library and convert a song into a ringtone …ok, not happening)

What about their (Cingular’s) TV/Film relationships? Will the next version of the iPhone have a MediaFLO chip? or DVB-H? If I have the iTunes phone, will I be excluded from live TV and the Sopranos?

With Yahoo! and Google applications/services shipping on the handset, it seems to imply that Cingular is open to applications/services competitive with their own. With most announcements between the handset manufacturers and content providers/Internet portals/et. al., it’s hard to assess the impact as the carrier often – at least in the US – has the final say on what is shipped on the handset they are selling.

The Cingular branding wasn’t yet on this device – makes sense as it was Apple’s day in the spotlight. The Cingular announcement was made at the very end, and there wasn’t much detail around it.

I was a bit surprised by the carrier announcement at the end despite all of the rumors from the analysts and press. Everything seemed to be leading up to an unlocked phone. Subsidies from Cingular will help sell the $499/$599 phone. Will be interesting to see if Cingular has the same terms as many of Apple’s other distribution partners i.e., one price/no discounting. Most “hot” new phones launch at high prices (e.g., the Razr), but quickly come down in price. With a target of one percent market share globally, Apple/Cingular may not need to do so. I’m sure most folks left thinking that this was round one, and there would be subsequent phones at prices designed for higher adoption like the iPod.

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