Let’s assume the iPod had a positive effect on the Macintosh—can we expect the same thing from the iPhone?
The cellphone markets in the US and European Union in particular are so large, around 200 million and 450 million users respectively, that even if Apple captures only a small segment of them, iPhone sales could be huge.
If Apple only manages to get 1 percent of that combined market of 650 million users, at $500 a pop, iPhones could realize sales of over $3 billion. Some analysts are even more optimistic than that, suggesting sales of up to $10 billion a year by the end of the decade. Either way, the iPhone could easily match the iPod in terms of value.
But does this mean the Macintosh will become steadily less important to Apple? Probably not. Assuming the Macintosh continues to grow at the same steady pace it’s been growing since 2001, by the end of the decade Mac sales should be around $9-10 billion. On top of this, there’s also software, service contracts, and peripherals, which taken together, increase the overall value of the Mac marketplace by about a third. So, the entire Macintosh platform could be worth around $12 billion to Apple by 2010, more than enough incentive to keep delivering Mac users innovative and compelling products.
What’s perhaps more interesting for Apple watchers is how the iPhone is being handled as a platform. Though it certainly has the heart of a palmtop computer—and runs a version of the Mac OS—Apple has completely frozen out third-party developers by keeping the iPhone’s software development kit (or SDK) under wraps. Instead, Apple is directing developers to produce server-side web applications similar to Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
To lessen developer disappointment, Apple recently released Windows and Mac versions of Safari 3.0, an updated version of the browser currently shipping on all Macintosh computers. The iPhone will come with the full Safari engine, so anything that works in the Windows or Mac versions of the browser should also work on the iPhone.
Some developers have expressed disappointment at not being able to build programs for the iPhone itself, but Apple may have good reasons to keep things this way. Keeping the iPhone secure is one, but so also is keeping the secrets of the SDK hidden from Apple’s rivals. It’s perhaps significant that even six years after the release of the iPod, the iPod SDK is still strictly Apple-only, and third parties are limited to producing content for the iPod media player, not applications.