iPhone 3G

The new iPhone becoming available July 11 will have 3G for faster web and email connections and longer battery operating time. Meanwhile, where’s the best place for 4 million iPhone users (not counting the 2 million that are in China or elsewhere) to demo to potential buyers? Starbucks. Apple has pulled off a great move in the U.S. with free AT&T wifi through Starbucks, significantly reducing the barrier of locked or for-pay wifi access points. This also will do more for Starbucks’ stock price than Starbucks could manage by changing their menu. There is, er, the small matter of a contract with T-Mobile that needs to be rationalized. Apple, AT&T, and Starbucks could perhaps share equally the cost of splitting the difference with T-Mobile.

Since everyone I know who has an iPhone is planning to switch to the new one, and everyone I know who doesn’t have an iPhone is planning to get the new one, it appears that Apple can do no wrong.

When the iPhone launched at the end of June last year, I made a bet with a friend about which would happen first (and by the end of 2007): iPhone clones from Chinese cell phone makers, or iPhone liberation by open source software.

Well, there have been clone sightings (“Top 10 iPhone Clones“), and a lot of hacking (“iPhone Hacks” – it was a matter of days before samba and ssh were functional on it), but I don’t think you could argue that either of these outcomes has occurred.

Now Sprint is going to take a $100 million run at AT&T and Apple with the Samsung “Instinct” iPhone clone. Sound familiar? I think it’s going to be “Indistinct.” In 2005, the year that iPod sales really took off, Creative Technology’s CEO said he was going to spend $100 million to compete with the iPod. A year later, Creative had decreased market share. By that time, “podcasting” was hot and “iPod” was the category. I’d say it’s too late for Sprint and Samsung to compete on feature-vs.-feature comparisons and ad spending because the iPhone has already redefined the smartphone category. It will take another redefinition.

An “open phone” could be that redefinition, but the hardware will have to be cool-better (OpenMoko has not been able to execute on either aspect; and the Google Android cell phone platform is Java, not sufficiently open source, and may have bitten off too big a piece of the stack; maybe evolution of the Intel MID project with the Atom processor on Linux will be the source of a broadly usable open phone platform).

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