Yesterday at the Apple developer conference, Steve Jobs publicly unveiled the iPhone 3G. Scheduled to be widely available on June 11th, the new version of the iPhone introduces the following key features:
GPS radio for location tracking
3G wireless for faster internet
Microsoft Exchange integration for enterprise customers
App Store for purchasing and downloading add-on native applications
(along with other more minor improvements, go to www.apple.com to get the full specs)
It seemed like the entire world was on hold yesterday waiting for the big announcement. Others may differ, but the unveiling was a bit underwhelming for me. Don't get me wrong, I have an iPhone and I think its a really nice product. But GPS and Exchange Integration is really just playing catchup with the other leading devices out there in the marketplace. I've had GPS on my BlackBerry for quite some time now. With regard to 3G, we will have to see what coverage and real performance improvements over EDGE it will bring in the US market. For sure though, even if its just an incremental rather than revolutionary improvement, the new features are welcome for those who already have bought into iPhone.
Many are writing about and comparing the "iPhone 2.0" with the newly announced BlackBerry Bold. Although perhaps an interesting comparison, the solutions are extremely different, and its not even just about what the device is like.
Let's talk about enterprise sales. Many are wondering if RIM should be worried now. Well, let's give RIM some credit here....they've been working in the enterprise mobile market for years and years....this is Apple's first try. Apple has some things to prove, not the least of which is that corporate america is ready and willing to buy Apple products. Palm tried mightily but overall failed to capture more than a fraction of enterprise, they simply were not able (for many reasons) to crack the market.
Will Apple do better? Its easy for them to say they will, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Competition is good for the marketplace, and there is certainly room for a solution like iPhone in the enterprise, but RIM has done EXTREMELY well in this realm to date, and I don't think anyone should be writing an R.I.P. for them anytime soon. Few talk about it, but RIM has their Enterprise Server (BES) which provides a huge competitive advantage over other smartphone devices in that it provides the control, configuration, integration and management that enterprise customers need to deploy mobile devices and applications to their employees.
From my perspective as a mobile applications developer, the most interesting advance announced here was the availability of an "App Store" for customers to purchase add-on native apps for the iPhone. Neither RIM nor any other player in this market has executed successfully on the concept of driving sales of add-on applications, short of bundling them outright on a device. I am very hopeful that Apple will be successful with their applications store, and we for sure will be creating applications for this platform and storefront. What I haven't seen yet is how the App Store will be relevant to enterprise customers and how they procure and install add-on apps.
What I can say is if Apple is not successful in cracking the enterprise market, it still is perhaps the best consumer-oriented solution available, given its integrated media capability and fantastic user interface.