SYDNEY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2008 - Apple's iPhone is the Swiss army knife of communications, with applications for all occasions. People can ring you, too.
The 3G Apple iPhone - with its multi-touch display, global positioning system, rich three-dimensional graphics, high-speed connectivity, motion sensitivity and computing capabilities - is a mobile application developer's dream.
Although similar functions have existed on other mobiles, Apple has created a whole new platform for independent developers to work with, and helped to break the tight grip on applications held by carriers and handset manufacturers.
In the same way that it revolutionised digital music with its iTunes music store, Apple has introduced the AppStore, an easy way for users to buy applications for their 3G iPhones. The process of buying and installing software can be done over a cellular or Wi-Fi network on the handset, without the need to synchronise with a computer or deal with a mobile carrier.
10 Million downloads
Investors have been spurred on by reports from Apple that it had more than 10 million downloads from its AppStore in the first weekend of operations.
Venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has set up a $US100 million ($114 million) "iFund" for companies that develop iPhone applications. KPCB will focus on location-based services, social networking, mCommerce (including advertising and payments), communication and entertainment. The iFund is expected to invest $US100,000 to $US15 million in mobile application and services companies.
About a quarter of applications in AppStore are free to download, while the average cost is about $US9.90. Apple takes a 30 per cent cut of all sales through the AppStore, which is the only way to install applications without making unauthorised modifications.
There are already more than 1000 applications available for the 3G iPhone. Most of them are consumer focused, such as games, lifestyle, entertainment and travel applications, but a growing number of business and finance applications are emerging.
Many business software sellers are creating iPhone versions of their software. Companies such as software pioneer Salesforce.com have been optimising their browser-based customer relationship management system to work seamlessly on the iPhone screen, and many others are following.
At a recent business partners' event, Cisco Systems demonstrated how the iPhone's motion sensitivity (think Nintendo Wii) could be used to transfer a call from an iPhone to another device, such as a desk phone, simply by pointing it in the right direction.
Through innovative features and ease of use, Apple hopes to take a large slice of the business hand-held market. The 3G iPhone's compatibility with Microsoft's Exchange software gives it push email (email with an instant, "always on" capability), a drawcard for businesses wanting to switch from BlackBerry devices.
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