Apple Positioning Itself For Battle With Google

I meant to post this yesterday, but time was not available to really complete it properly. So, you now have an Apple iPhone 4 post that is a day late. The reality is that it really does not matter because the announcements were generally underwhelming. First, let me say that the iPhone 4 is a cool device. It looks impressive and has some very nice features. However, the hype prior to the conference, and the various rumors that floated in the days before, were not substantiated. Louis Gray had the best summary of the iPhone 4:

What I was looking for today was not a device that offered feature parity or similarity to what I have now somewhere else – on a platform that isn’t limiting me to the manufacturer or to the carrier. I wanted more flexibility and more functionality.

He also mentioned that the iPhone4-only video chat was like a “parlor trick”. I think Louis was being a little harsh in that comment, but he has a point. It is available only to iPhone4 owners, so that really limits the capability. Overall, there were some nice additions to the iPhone and TheNextWeb has a solid list of everything announced. Here are the major highlights:

  • The display has 326 pixels per inch with a resolution of 960×640. Supposedly, that means the screen can look as sharp as printed text on paper.
  • The new battery and power management are a huge improvement. Talk time up to 7 hours, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby. Given that the current iPhone gives you maybe 3 days of standby, that is impressive.
  • There is a three-axis gyroscope that can make the iPhone a major gaming device. The accelerometer did not have that type of flexibility.
  • The camera has a five megapixel sensor which is OK, but it records HD video in 720p at 30fps.
  • You can edit video on the phone through iMovie for iPhone and upload to Youtube. This was the most impressive demo of the entire day.
  • iBooks is coming to the iPhone, and it syncs wirelessly with iBooks on other devices and it supports PDF files too.
  • The phone has a front-facing camera for uses like video chat.

Overall, a solid list of features, but not a huge step in mobile computing. It sounds like the big deal was really regarding the display technology, but most people will barely notice the difference. The only other major announcement was for iAds, which had already been talked about. More importantly, Apple already has advertisers that have purchased $60 million in iAds. This is very important from the revenue stream and competition perspective, but not from the iPhone or developer perspective.

So, in reality, this conference was more about marketing. iAds is important for Apple to share due to the potential revenue and throwing some level of advertising dollars to the application developers. This definitely makes the community a little happier. There was a lot of “positioning” going on as well. This was most evident in the rebranding of the operating system to iOS4. This was done to make the operating system seem more applicable to devices other than the iPhone. If the iPod touch, the iPad and any other non-iPhone devices are running this operating system, calling it the iPhone OS just seems wrong. If Apple is trying to build its own ecosystem, then ensuring that all of the devices are using the same OS is very important, and branding will be a big part of that.

They have already started combining the statistics for iOS powered devices, when they stated that they have sold over 100 million iOS devices. Notice, they did not say iPhone OS powered or anything similar to that. This combination of units sold is extremely important from the marketing perspective. Android is the operating system used in various mobile phones, and now some tablets as well. It is also the operating system running under Google TV. Google is pushing the number of Android devices, so it makes sense for iPhone to start touting numbers of iOS devices. This will also help with the marketing of the rumored yet still missing other iPhone carrier and Apple TV.

Yes, this conference was really about Apple positioning itself better as it prepares for battle with Google. This is not about mobile phones anymore. This is about the future of portable computing, much like the Apple vs. Microsoft battle almost 20 years ago over the desktop computer. As a user, the only thing you can do is watch the innovation. We are the winners for a while, until one of the platforms is declared the victor. At that point, we will have a whole new set of concerns.

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