Does Steve Jobs have another hit in his hands? Last night, we watched the Webcast of his “iPhone software roadmap” presentation and were thoroughly impressed. We think this will help Apple sell a lot of phones.
Apple’s pitch to gamers, for instance, is unique and compelling: Instead of playing games with a thumbpad and buttons, you can ‘steer’ using the iPhone’s motion sensor. It’s very Nintendo (NTDOY) Wii-like, and looks like a lot of fun. (We’re also excited to learn that Electronic Arts’ (ERTS) upcoming “Spore” game, from “Sims” creator Will Wright, will feature an iPhone version.)
It’s clear we’re not the only ones interested in the software development kit (SDK) — after a few hours of trying, we still haven’t had any luck downloading it. People on several Web forums are reporting the same error message we’re getting: “We are processing your request. Please wait a few moments then refresh this page.”
Is the SDK perfect? As TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington notes, no. One concern: iPhone apps seemingly won’t be able to run in the background. Which, according to his analysis, means you’ll either have to keep your IM software running on top of all other apps, all the time, or you’ll get signed off. It’s possible Apple (AAPL) will address this before the iPhone 2.0 software update rolls out in June, but we don’t think it’s a dealbreaker.
Also part of Apple’s pitch: The iPhone will also be friendlier for businesses, which can use new, built-in support for Microsoft’s (MSFT) Exchange email, calendar, contacts, etc.
VC Fred Wilson brings up an important point: That only helps companies who buy their phones from AT&T (T), Apple’s exclusive U.S. carrier.
Why does that matter? It’s easy for one person — or even a family of four — to switch wireless providers at the end of their 2-year deal. But companies with hundreds (or thousands) of BlackBerries on Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile probably aren’t going to switch to AT&T just so a few people can use iPhones. (AT&T is the biggest U.S. carrier, with about 70 million subs, or about 30% of the market.)
It’s possible this could limit the number of big companies who immediately adopt the iPhone. But we don’t think it will have much of an impact on Apple’s overall iPhone sales — the number of corporate wireless subscribers in the U.S. is actually pretty small.
The vast majority of iPhone buyers — and, similarly, a huge growth driver for rival Research In Motion (RIMM) these days — are consumers who would like to hook their phones up with their work email as a convenience. Apple’s new features allow them to do that, so they can buy an iPhone instead of a BlackBerry Pearl/Curve/etc.
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