Next Monday, Apple (AAPL) chief Steve Jobs is expected to show off the long-awaited, second-edition iPhone. But some of the most important products Jobs will demo won’t be made by Apple — they’ll be software apps created by other companies for the new iPhone/iPod touch platform.
Here’s who we know is involved: Big firms like Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL, Electronic Arts (ERTS), Sega, THQ (THQI), Salesforce.com (CRM) — and startups like SixApart, Readdle, WebIS, Pelago, and whoever’s making that cool multi-player Pong game. We also expect coders who made apps for “jailbroken” iPhones to develop official apps, like the popular Twitter client Twinkle and the Last.fm MobileScrobbler. And at some point, we think Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) will create some nifty iPhone apps, too.
Why is the iPhone platform so important? Because it’s the first mainstream mobile software platform with a centralized app store, a purchasing system iTunes users are already accustomed to (and are already signed up for), and a user-friendly installation system. Because of this, we think the iPhone has the chance to be the first phone that most users — not just a few — buy, install, and use third-party software for. Which could lead to huge success down the line for Apple.
To be sure, it’s still a gamble for companies to throw a lot of resources at iPhone apps. Even if Apple sells all 10 million iPhones it plans to sell this year, that’s still a market opportunity of less than 14 million phones at the end of 2008. (Plus however many million iPod touches are sold.) But people will buy about 990 million other phones this year, none of which can run iPhone apps.
And some developers may be turned off by Apple’s terms: Apple must approve all apps, and will take a 30% cut of each one it sells. And it has the right to refuse certain kids of apps, like Internet phone software that screws their carrier partners; we can also see it nixing software that could compete with their own services, like an iTunes-rival music store. For those reasons, we think some developers will take a wait-and-see approach, or will skip the iPhone platform altogether.
But from what we’ve seen so far — admittedly, not much — we’re think Apple’s mobile platform will be a hit. We think a lot of people will buy a lot of software for their phones, and that with a thriving apps platform, Apple will sell a lot more iPhones than they’d be able to without it.