One-Button Software Store
Furthermore, Apple is eliminating the complexity for users to install and run software on phones.
The new AppStore, offering one-button access to buy and install programs on iPhones, is expected to transform what is expected from software on phones. Unlike PCs, phones tend to offer little or no choice of what programs run on them.
Apple's iPod followed a similar trajectory. When introduced in 2001, the device that would redefine how music is sold was derided as just another digital music player--and an expensive one at that, albeit slicker-looking and lighter in weight, recalls Gartner Inc industry analyst Mike McGuire.
But it was not until 2003, when iTunes began offering a seamless way to shop for, install and play music, eliminating many technical hurdles, that the impulse era of digital song buying began and iPod sales soared. The AppStore promises to bring that same spontaneity to software use, analysts say.
"It was the first inkling that the iPod wasn't just a music player. It became a gateway that opened up to a larger set of services," said Web consultant Peter Merholz of the photos and movies and other features that followed.
Merholz is co-author of a book called "Subject to Change" arguing how iPhones are an example of how companies should stop thinking about products as products and instead see them as ways to connect customers to useful services. He is president of Web design firm Adaptive Path and perhaps best known for coining the term "blog" in 1999.
Apple resisted opening up the iPhone to software developers at first, meaning that only Web-based software could run on it. But a change of heart by Apple since October has brought software developers flooding in to take advantage of new powers to run programs on the phone rather than, slowly, via the Web.
The changes mean software can store data on the iPhone. It means passwords and "virtual private networks"--secure pipelines over the Internet into office networks that companies require to gain access to sensitive business data--now work.
"From the Palm days up to now, the smartphone market has suffered because the average consumer does not understand how to load software on a phone," said Paul Moreton, vice president of product management for Quickoffice, the most widely distributed productivity software for use on smartphones.
Quickoffice is a package of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software that comes pre-installed on 60 million Symbian software-based phones from handset makers including Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
Taking advantage of the high-resolution iPhone screen, Quickoffice has created a version of its software that lets iPhone users view full-screen PowerPoint presentations or zoom in to read or edit individual characters in the document.