MACWORLD - Why Apple dropped 'computer'

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

Probably the most revolutionary thing about the iPhone is its interface (if you haven't see it yet, check out Apple's iPhone site for QuickTime demos. The interface has all the beautifully rendered 3-D interface elements and intuitive ease of navigation that you would expect for a handheld device built on Mac OS X. The entire interface is reminiscent of Mac OS X's Dashboard, from the home location through the widgets. In fact, it will be interesting to see if Apple allows additional widgets, such as the thousands already available for Mac OS X, to be used to extend the already impressive feature set of the iPhone.

Most mobile phones, from those entry level models to the most advanced smart phones, tend to have less-than-intuitive interfaces that require you to press buttons or use a stylus. In comparison, the multitouch interface of the iPhone puts it light years ahead of any other phone on the market. Combined with Safari and the e-mail client, the interface is even more impressive. The same is true for the ease of managing contact, calendar and other personal information between the computer and the iPhone. That's something iPod users have enjoyed for years.

Speaking of the iPod, the iPhone's iPod interface is as close to that of previous iPod generations as it can be without a click-wheel -- but it's even easier. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if future iPods end up sporting multitouch as their interface. The wide-screen feature is definitely a plus, particularly since more movies are being added to the iTunes store now that Paramount has joined Disney in selling titles through iTunes.

I could go on and on about the iPhone as a device that has leapfrogged the U.S. mobile phone industry, but its ability to revolutionize the market will depend on its ability to attract users. As advanced as the iPhone is, it does face challenges that could curb its ability to gain widespread adoption, particularly in the short term. One concern may be its price; another is Apple's decision to partner solely with Cingular.

It's true that Cingular has the largest GSM and EDGE data network in North America, along with the largest subscriber base. However, the distribution setup means that users of other providers will have to decide whether the iPhone is good enough to make them want to switch companies. That's a decision often based on a variety of factors, including customer service experience, rate plans and coverage options in specific locations. That may be of particular concern in some rural areas where GSM doesn't provide expanded coverage.

Even if users opt to switch to Cingular in order to purchase the iPhone, most will likely wait until their current contracts expire to avoid early termination fees. This may not affect iPhone adoption in the long run, but it will almost certainly have an effect during the first several months. Existing Cingular customers may also wait until their current contracts expire, depending on the final pricing and contract requirements that Apple and Cingular develop.

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Ryan Faas

Ryan Faas

Computerworld
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