The iPhone Economy 2.0
The new version of the iPhone rolled out by Apple last week represents more than just a new phone. It foretells a new economy of service, application and network providers likely to grow up around this mobile platform.
At the center of iPhone 2.0 is the new open software developer kit (SDK) enabling third-party application development. This is where the first iPhone ecosystem will emerge. At launch, a range of developers from AOL, Cisco, eBay, Electronic Arts, Salesforce.com and Sega showed native iPhone applications. Apps will be delivered via the iPhone AppStore, giving Apple gatekeeper status to this portion of the iPhone ecosystem.
Perhaps most interesting is MobileMe, Apple’s “cloud-based” service that helps iPhone users synch multiple devices and store content and access applications in the network. Mobile Me costs $99, representing a potentially healthy source or revenue for Apple. It’s intriguing to note that those revenues will indeed flow to Apple and not to its service provider partners that might have been the more natural fit to offer such network-based services.
Of course the big draw for iPhone 2.0 is 3G. AT&T in the US will see a boost in data service fees from $20 to $30, partially offset by likely carrier subsidies to get the entry iPhone down to $199. What happened to the mobile future of open devices and open networks? Apparently, cheap, subsidized phones still hold a lot of appeal for mainstream consumers. Further, the subsidy means AT&T won’t share monthly revenue with Apple, making the iPhone the same as any other phone, from AT&T’s perspective.
Still to be seen is the impact of the iPhone’s location-based technology, which combines a GPS chip and WiFi and cell-tower location data. Google Maps is the main on-phone interface to take advantage of these location-based capabilities, but other services such as Loopt mobile social network demonstrated how location can play in a variety of applications. How quickly will location-aware applications come into play, and who will be the big winner here?