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Macworld Fervor: iPhone Becomes Next Must-Have Device

After seeing the iPhone, once-happy owners of Treos and BlackBerrys are viewing their phones with some disdain and longing for the June release of Apple's new device.
Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, says the iPhone is a breakthrough product for the smartphone market. "This is well beyond smartphones," he says. "It should be called a brilliant phone."

John Welch, a Unix/open source administrator at Kansas City Life Insurance and a Mac industry analyst who's speaking at Macworld Expo, isn't quite as excited. "It's a $500 phone and it's only on Cingular," he says. "Is it compelling enough to get me to leave Sprint? I don't think so. There's more to a carrier than the phone that's available. Switching carriers is a pain, and if you break your contract, there are penalties."

While he's not marking his calendar for a June switch to the iPhone, Welch says it's a really interesting device. "This will make [Apple] a serious player," he adds. "Will they immediately take over the phone market? No, but they'll be a major player now."

JupiterResearch's Gartenberg agrees that the iPhone will make Apple a player in that market, but he also says it's bound to change the market as well. "Apple has polished what a next-generation mobile experience should look like in terms of calendar, contacts, and media integration," says Gartenberg. "It isn't so much that Apple has invented the cell phone. What they've really done is refine the user experience. There's no doubt it will resonate very well with consumers. This is a device that does belong in the 21st century."

Drawbacks?

Gartenberg says there are a few that will make some users, particularly business users, stick with their BlackBerrys and Palm Treos. The $500 price tag isn't likely to be subsidized down to $49.99 by the carrier. It's a locked device so other applications can't be added to it. E-mail addicts, for instance, won't want to give up that connection to business e-mail.

"This is where it will get interesting," Gartenberg says. "A lot will come down to how well it supports Exchange on the back end. Will it support Exchange for calendar and contacts like I can do with the Treo? Those are important features. Right now, it's really a consumer device. But the consumer and business are slowly merging together, and there's going to be more than one executive who wants to carry this around with him. This is the device that if it doesn't work in the enterprise, people will create a lot of pressure on IT to get it to work."