MACWORLD - Why Apple dropped 'computer'

When its biggest news of the year is a new phone is it any wonder Apple changed its name?

Perhaps one of the most telling statements about the newly renamed Apple Inc. that CEO Steve Jobs made during his Tuesday keynote at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco was that the company will now be referred to as simply as Apple, not as Apple Computer.

Apple has been moving away from being solely a computer maker for several years, and the new moniker was announced at the end of a keynote that -- while it included two major announcements -- had little do to with Apple's Macintosh computers or its Mac OS X operating system. While the new AppleTV device for streaming all manner of digital media from one or more computers to a television was technically Mac-related (as was Apple's announcement of 802.11n wireless connectivity under the name AirPort Extreme in the AppleTV and other products), it truly reflected Apple's identity as a diverse company that focuses on the digital media experience and digital media devices as much as it does on computers.

And it was the iPhone, a product famous long before being actually introduced -- that stole the show.

Rumors of the iPhone have been circulating for more than a year. Tuesday morning, however, all those rumors were put to rest with the unveiling of a device that is part iPod, part smart phone, part Internet appliance -- and much more than just an iPod and mobile phone combined into a single device. There truly is no better word than revolutionary to describe the device, which is slated to ship in June pending FCC approval.

Here's a quick recap of the specs and major details of the iPhone:

  • It's 4.5 in. by 2.4 in. by 0.46 in. and weighs just under five oz., making it the thinnest smart phone on the market.
  • It offers quad-band GSM support.
  • It supports Cingular Wireless's EDGE data network, as well as 802.11b/g wireless connectivity, with the ability to seamlessly switch between the two for Internet access.
  • It supports Bluetooth 2.0.
  • It features a 3.5-inn screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 at 160 pixels per inch and includes a 2-megapixel camera.
  • It reportedly delivers 16 hours of battery life when used for music playback and five hours for other uses.
Those are the basics. The iPhone, due out in June (Australia next year) after it receives approval from the Federal Communications Commission, also has sensors that allow it to automatically rotate the screen between portrait and landscape when the user turns. And it can adjust the backlight to accommodate the brightness of its surroundings and automatically turn off the backlight when it is placed next to a user's ear.

The iPhone also uses a revolutionary interface powered by Mac OS X that relies on Apple's groundbreaking new "multitouch" touch-screen technology. The use of multitouch for all user interface elements, combined with Mac OS X's robust graphics capabilities, gives the iPhone an amazingly intuitive and comfortable interface for all features. In addition, it offers all of the functions of a wide-screen video iPod, runs several widgets familiar to users of Mac OS X's Dashboard, includes full-featured versions of Apple's Safari Web browser and e-mail client -- with support for push IMAP (free from Yahoo) -- and displays Google Maps.

But, as they say in the commercials, wait, there's more. It has the ability to sync contacts and related personal information with a computer, provides automatic recognition of phone numbers in any context for easy dialing, delivers text messaging in an iChat-like interface, and displays visual voice mail that allows users to see their messages and to listen to or respond to them without needing to listen to each message.

The iPhone will be sold exclusively through Cingular for US$499 for a 4GB model and US$599 for an 8GB model. Buying the phone will require signing a Cingular service agreement.

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Ryan Faas

Ryan Faas

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