The new 3G iPhone is impressive, but it's not the new hardware that is the most exciting aspect. After all, both Palm and RIM have (or soon will have) competing hardware platforms containing GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, and high speed network access. In the case of Palm and RIM they even have actual keyboards. So if the iPhone does achieve market dominance it will likely be due to the software available.
The App store in iTunes is now in full swing. With Apple reporting sales of 1 million 3G iPhones, and the downloading of over 10 million apps in the first 3 days, we are starting to see just how powerful the concept of a well integrated application store can be when you have a captive audience. When you consider that the iPhone 2.0 software necessary to access and install these apps is less than a week old, achieving 10 million downloads is certainly impressive. Granted approximately 25% of the 500 or so applications are free, but you have to believe that the quality of applications available will be going a long way to persuade iPhone and Touch users to spend some money on the non-free as well.
Talking about the initial availability of 500 applications, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying:
"This is the biggest launch of my career"
Tim Bajarin (an independent analyst at Creative Strategies) says:
When IBM introduced the PC, it was good, but it didn't take off until people started discovering the software," he says. The breadth of the applications "dramatically differentiates the iPhone" from competing smartphones such as the Treo and BlackBerry, he adds.
"The games are what you'd find on a computer, not on a phone," he says. "You'll end up with PC-class applications that fit in your pocket."
The graphics available on a larger from factor screen such as the iPhone along with niceties like a built in accelerometer and location awareness will undoubtedly be key factors, but probably as importantly, there are going to be large numbers of talented developers trying to be part of this huge emerging market.
So can Palm and RIM compete? It will be tough to keep up or catch up - that's for sure. One of the attractions of the Palm platform to me has always been the huge diversity of application types available. Let's hope that developers continue to create new and better applications for the Palm platforms, and that we as a user community continue to support that effort with our requests for new software, and with our spending dollars.