Apple managed to confound its critics in style at its Macworld show by announcing a product that many people (myself included) believed to be nothing more than vapourware; the iPhone.
The device, which combines the functions of a camera phone and an iPod music player, looks most impressive and is sure to be a hit in the consumer market when it ships later this year. After all, most iPod users seem fanatically devoted to them, and almost certainly have a mobile phone as well. Who wouldn't rather have just a single device to carry around, provided it can fulfil both functions equally well?
But I wonder whether Apple might also find some interest from the enterprise market. Many workers have been crying out for a more intuitive user interface in their mobile devices, and if the iPhone lives up to the early hype about its high-resolution touch-sensitive display, then the company could be onto something.
Even more significant is the built-in 4GB or 8GB of storage, which is primarily there for the iPhone's music player functions. There must be mobile developers out there that are even now dreaming of the kind of applications they might build with this much local storage available in a handheld client device.
Of course, many executives are virtually wedded to their BlackBerry, and enterprises have generally preferred to adopt a Microsoft-based strategy for mobile and wireless applications.
But another factor in the iPhone's favour is that it runs OS X – the same operating system as Apple's desktop systems. This should mean that existing developer tools can be used to build applications for the device, and there are a great many programmers already familiar with these tools.
Depending on how similar the iPhone version of OS X is to the Mac version, Apple might have just handed developers a robust and high-performance platform for mobile applications, one that might give Microsoft's mobile division serious cause for concern.
The iPhone is most definitely worth keeping an eye on.
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