Today at 6PM (in each time zone) Apple’s iPhone will be launched in the USA and the hype is incredibly thick (cf. this compilation of iPhone news stories). The early iPhone reviews were universally favorable and barring any last minute disasters it looks like the iPhone is on its way to being a hit not just for its technology features, but also for the way it is shaking up the traditional cell phone business.
As disturbing as this is for the current US mobile phone carriers, no one expects the Apple and AT&T combination to dominate the industry like the iPod dominates MP3 players. In the first place, the iPhone is a pricey single carrier smartphone when smartphones are little more than 10% of the market. Second, its credentials for business use (which is a large part of the smartphone market) are a trifle suspect or at least unproven and Gartner isn’t sure that Apple will ever support the corporate market.
I find the “Apple won’t support enterprises” view a trifle myopic since Apple will support whatever they need to in order to make money – if not today, then in due course. To that end there were rumors this week that Apple will license Exchange ActiveSync in order to improve compatibility with Microsoft’s Exchange email server and that today’s Exchange 2007 update may also be partly directed at iPhone compatibility.
As for Microsoft, besides having a new mobile client for its various server and Web offerings, they now have an additional competitor for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6 in the smartphone space. The iPhone is not a direct competitor, of course, but a competitor for all the phone vendors licensing Windows Mobile. That is a situation eerily reminiscent of Microsoft’s deceased Portable Media Center offering whose OEMs were sunk by the iPod leading Microsoft to attempt to do it themselves with the Zune. It’s not even close to “Zune Phone” time yet, but you can bet that both Microsoft and Apple are thinking about the prospect.