In Sept. 2007 I wrote an article about how Apple’s global marketing for the iPhone was attracting and creating a new user base in China. Now, we know that there are more than 400,000 unlocked iPhones in regular use in China.
Since Apple gets recurring revenue for the iPhone through its contracts with the operators, many analysts have said that these unlocked iPhones represent lost revenue for the company. In China, China Mobile gets all the revenue spent by users for moving data up and down from the cracked iPhones, and does not have to share any of the income with Apple. And the statistics show that iPhone users consume much larger amounts of data than competing mobile phone platforms.
Obviously this is a serious loss for Apple.
I say “Not so fast!”
Today, Apple just announced its new iPhone SDK. Now, the Apple iPhone will talk with Exchange servers, morphing the Apple iPhone from something corporate IT departments viewed as a consumer toy, to a full-fledged platform on a par with Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Linux.
As in most Apple presentations, the most important stuff always get buried close to the end of the presentation. That was the announcement of the Apple App Store, which will allow developers from all over the world to build and sell their iPhone applications. Developers will be able to charge any price they want, and Apple will keep 30% to cover hosting, distribution and credit card fees. The App Store will be available as a new button on the iPhone beginning in June. Presumably, this download will work on all iPhones, including cracked and jailbreaked iPhones.
Make no mistake about it, this is truly revolutionary news. The iPhone platform has taken over the role which the carriers once took for themselves. Today is as important a day as when Apple announced the Macintosh platform in 1984, singlehandedly launching the desktop computing industry.
Today Apple launched the mobile applications industry. When the Macintosh platform was launched in 1984, it led to the growth of Microsoft with the Office applications suite, which was developed for the Macintosh before the PC platform.
Now, do you think that Microsoft will have enough sense to develop apps for the Apple App Store, or will they continue to stick to developing for the Windows Mobile platform only? My feeling is that if Microsoft developed for the Apple App Store, they would get traction very quickly, if only they would let their developers develop.
Make no mistake about it, today, Apple launched the mobile computing industry with the iPhone computer SDK which user statistics show, is the favorite platform among consumers, and is gaining headway in the corporate space.
Even in China, where it is not officially sold and supported yet.
With the iPhone computer SDK and App Store, along with Apple’s excellent development tools, any developer with any sense will start building apps for the iPhone computer.
Including in China.
So where does this leave China Mobile? Much press has been devoted to Apple’s unsuccessful negotiations with China Mobile to distribute the iPhone in China.
In reality, the interests of the companies are aligned.
- Both China Mobile and Apple want the mobile computing industry to succeed.
- Both stand to make MUCH more revenue when the platform takes off.
Right now, they are just jockeying for position in this new business ecosystem. Where they rub against each other is on the applications platform level, which China Mobile wants to control as much as possible, and on the revenue share level, which China Mobile wants to control, and does not want to share with anyone.
Today, Apple just won on the application platform level round on the rapidly growing iPhone computing platform.
But I predict that China Mobile is quietly pleased with all the extra revenue data consumers on the iPhone computer platform have been generating, and which it does have full control over. Have you noticed that China Mobile has not broken out those revenue numbers yet? When the Apple App Store launches in June, those numbers will shoot up even higher.
You see, there is nothing wrong with being a commodity data mover when you run into the ideal data platform for users.
Round two will be about who will define ad standards and specifications for the iPhone platform (Apple), and how advertising revenue will be shared in different markets on this platform.