FEATURE: iPhone's Key to Long-Term Success May Be In the Software

By Ken Hyers and John Byrne

The hype that is the iPhone, fed by a perfect storm of skillful marketing, media stories and an underlying desire from consumers for the ultimate media-centric mobile phone, finally culminated on June 29 when the iPhone went on sale. In the first weekend it was available, customers bought nearly every single iPhone available, with the handset selling out in every AT&T store, and nearly every Apple store. Whether or not the iPhone--in the long run--is ultimately a success is unknown but the device has already changed expectations about what a full-featured mobile phone is and what it should do.

The iPhone has the potential to change the mobile industry in ways that have been well discussed over the past few weeks and months. Yes, the features are really cool--the touch screen, the gesture recognition, the graphics, etc. But one area that has not received as much press attention as it should is the iPhone's OS X operating system, which integrates with other Apple products including the iTunes website. This means that the iPhone's software is able to be updated on a regular basis, and that these updates occur seamlessly, in the background, with very little input on the part of the user. While updating smartphone software is not unique to the iPhone, the ease of the process is unique. In contrast to the iPod experience, updating a Nokia N95 (for example)  requires more than a dozen steps on the part of the user, including manual backup of contacts and other personal information, and a notice stating that interfering with the update process by disconnecting the phone during update will lead to "severe damage to your phone and it may stop working." 

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Ken Hyers and John Byrne are analysts for Technology Business Research, a company-focused high-tech research firm based in Hampton, New Hampshire. http://www.tbri.com/