Analysts: iPhone 3G launch more significant than original iPhone

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As Apple’s long awaited iPhone 3G hits U.S retail stores at 8:00 am local time on Friday, analysts have already pegged this release as more important than the original iPhone.

“While it won’t be the same circus atmosphere of the first iPhone release, it is arguably more important,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch. “This time it’s not just about the hardware, it’s really the software that matters.”

Indeed, Apple’s three-pronged software attack includes updated iPhone 2.0 software, the App Store, and the MobileMe service (the replacement to .Mac). Of course, the new iPhone itself will attract attention, but the software will have more of an impact this time around.

“The original iPhone signaled Apple’s first foray into this world and set the pace for a design philosophy that many manufacturers are seeking to incorporate in competitive handsets," said Ross Rubin, director of analysis for market-research firm NPD Group. "Strategically, iPhone 3G is more important because it marks the debut of the platform. Apple is a platform company and will have the same OS running across the iPhone, Apple TV, and the Mac.”

With the release of the iPhone SDK earlier this year, Apple gave developers and consumers a look at what could be done on a mobile platform. Until now, one of the biggest drawbacks of the iPhone was the inability to install applications on the device.

Now users can see the depth of what software developers can offer, and the type of integration that Apple can initiate through its own services.

“It seems like everyone is aiming for where Apple was a year ago,” said Gartenberg. “There are interesting alternatives if you don’t have an iPhone and AT&T, but with the new software, Apple is really kicking things forward once again.”

One of the biggest pushes Apple is making is what it calls “Exchange for the rest of us” with MobileMe. The service will allow users to sync and push data to and from multiple devices (not to mention actual Exchange support for business customers).

“Whoever controls sync controls the world," said Gartenberg, "and Apple controls sync to your business and personal life.”

In addition to synchronization, Apple has added GPS technology to the iPhone, giving developers the ability to creation locate-aware software for various purposes.

Of course, dropping the price of the iPhone will overcome another one of the major consumer complaints with the original device—it’s too expensive. With the new phone pricing starting at $199 (even with more-expensive monthy bills), most of those complaints should be a thing of the past.

When it comes to the enterprise market, however, pricing is always an issue but the iPhone will need to prove its capabilities before being widely adopted. Bill Hughes, principal analyst for wireless devices at In-Stat, predicts that the iPhone will make headway in the small and medium-size businesses at first.

Overall, analysts feel the iPhone 3G, MobileMe, iPhone 2.0 software, and the App Store offer a significant reason to upgrade.

“All together, this is a pretty compelling release,” said Gartenberg.

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