Of iPhones and "orifices" ...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

iPhone, Steve Job's new answer to the gadget-crazy world! Is it a phone with music capabilities or is it a multimedia device that can double up as a phone? Though some may argue that it is semantics, I would probably vote for the latter option. It is really an iPod with a phone.

The reason, in my mind, is simple. Apple already attempted to bundle their iTunes software with a Motorola phone and were not happy with the outcome. It did not have the look and feel of the iPod. And hence it set the stage for the device that the entire world was waiting for with baited breath, the iPhone.

This being said, Apple and Jobs have re-defined the wireless business and set in motion, the move towards an all-in-all mobile phone. Though leading vendors have made public statements relaying that their sales volumes are unlikely to be swayed greatly, they are candidly admitting the threat posed in private conversations. Infact, LG and Samsung are already up with their answers to the iPhone with their own sleek designs. They can act fast, but it is unlikely that they can match the design geniuses in Apple and also their staggeringly huge fan-base. If the iPhone lives to its hype, the US is likely to see large-scale migration to Cingular and that could change the market dynamics even further with GSM/3GPP winning over CDMA atleast in the US.

Another interesting question that comes to mind and often figuring in casual conversations with industry insiders is if the iPhone is a snub to "3G". While the world is flaunting 3G and designing 4G systems, Apple and Cingular have made a bold statement by using a GSM chip. Though Cingular has rolled out WCDMA in 100 major cities in the US and also provides HSDPA in few markets, the iPhone has stuck to its predecessor. One may argue that Cingular has maximum coverage only on its GSM network, and so it makes sense to support GSM. But the flipside of the argument is that a WCDMA chip or even a HSDPA chip should be backward compatible with GSM and so should be able to still get full coverage. But atleast for this version of iPhone, no one saw an economic argument to go for a costlier alternative to the fairly cheap GSM chipset. More importantly, this also signifies the fact that even Cingular does not see WCDMA expand at the rapid rate it was envisioned to. While the 3GPP standards body is busy churning out release 7 and working out details for release 8 on the 3G side, this move by Cingular seems to suggest that GSM is still its cash cow and 3G in reality has a long way to go.

It is also very likely that other handset manufacturers are green with envy on the deal that Jobs seems to have got from Cingular. A lot of it is fairly unheard of in the industry and apparently Cingular has gone out of its way to secure this deal. Call it marketing genius or the power of iPod. Jobs, widely believed to have called service providers as "orifices" at some point in the past, has indeed leveraged the market position of iPod and perhaps the sleek design to get the larger part of the pie.

While it is to be seen how the iPhone does as a phone, it sure is going to have a lot of immediate buyers. Even hardcore modem designers who struggle to push the boundaries of performance want to lay their hands on this one. And of course, one should also not be surprised if the modem performance is overlooked. After all, it is the carrier who is going to take the flak from the customer. Someone having a cool phone is more likely to blame his bad call experience on the service provider rather than on the phone itself.

So lets wait until June to see if Jobs can once again say..

I came, I saw, I conquered!

Posted by Vijay Nagarajan at 11:00 PM  


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