Saints, sinners and bloggers swept up in iPhone hype


29 Jun 2007

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The buzz surrounding today’s US launch of Apple’s iPhone has captured the imagination of everyone from leading charities to Hugh Heffner, who will launch Playboy products for the phone, to an ardent blogger who is third in line to receive the device but will auction his coveted device for charity.

While critics smirk at the fact that so much hype surrounds what is effectively a 2.5G phone, the event itself is being treated as a milestone event in the annals of the technology industry; almost equivalent in importance to the onset of the first PC in 1981.

Charities are making use of the momentum to do some good for the world. Representatives of Keep A Child Alive, an organisation that gets anti-retroviral to children infected with AIDS in Africa will be first online at Apple’s SoHo store in New York. Once purchased the device will be auctioned off on eBay and will be hand delivered to the highest bidder.

Even the blogging fraternity is getting involved. David Clayman, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, is the third person in line to buy an iPhone at Apple’s flagship store on 5th Avenue. However, he plans to auction off the iPhone to support the Taproot Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on resolving American society’s toughest problems.

“I’m going to buy two iPhones if I can and auction off the first one to raise money for the Taproot Foundation,” wrote Clayman in his blog. “I’ll sell it for a US$5,000 donation to Taproot.”

At the other end of the spectrum Playboy.com yesterday paid its homage to iPhone with the launch of “iPlayboy”, a collection of multimedia features “guaranteed to turn up the heat on that cool, new phone.”

IPhone owners will be able to visit Playboy.com to download a free set of 12 non-nude Playmate wallpapers, a separate photo album with 12 additional Playmate photos, a complete one-hour episode of Playboy Radio’s The Playmate Hour and a Playboy.com Cyber Girl video, all customised for the Apple iPhone.

“We have always tried to stay ahead of the curve by delivering the fun, sophistication and sexiness of Playboy to our fans on the newest and hottest media platforms,” said John D Thomas, editor of Playboy.com. “And with so much buzz surrounding the all-in-one Apple iPhone we knew we had to develop something specifically designed just for this device.”

Visto, the business email service used in Ireland by Meteor and Vodafone, is also getting in on the iPhone hype by launching a secure email service for the product. Through Visto, iPhone users will be able to experience secure mobile access to current and legacy versions of both Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino corporate messaging platforms.

“The iPhone and other devices to follow will continue to accelerate demand for secure mobile access to corporate data including email, contacts, calendar and other important information sources,” said Brian Bogosian, president, chairman and CEO of Visto.

Device manufacturers are getting in on the game by introducing peripherals for iPhone users. InflightPower.com announced the introduction of a new product for those travellers interested in recharging the new Apple iPhone while on the fly with a recharging cable that works by storing energy from the passenger seat music jack on the plane. It then outputs regulated power to the attached USB charging cable/connector.

As well as this, SeeFile, a developer of web server software for sharing media files, announced its support for Apple’s iPhone with a new free hosted service, http://www.seefile.com/. The site combines 5 Gigabytes of free storage space, graphical previews of saved files, and features such as print ordering and online annotation.

Most eyes are on how well the device will do in its first week and the prognosis isn’t super.

Harris Interactive says that 15pc of online Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they are at least somewhat likely to buy the iPhone and 1pc are absolutely certain they will. More than half (55pc) of those who are somewhat likely to buy say they will wait for a price drop and 49pc say they will wait to find out how good it really is.

A white paper from Parks Associates says that while the Apple iPhone may find strong demand among early-adopter technophiles, building a larger market may be difficult initially. Its survey finds only 3pc of consumers have a strong interest in purchasing the iPhone at its US$499.99 price point and two-year contract.

“The underlying drivers for converging music, multimedia, and communications capabilities in a device such as an iPhone are certainly prevalent in today’s market,” said Kurt Scherf, vice-president and principal analyst with Parks Associates.

“However, the high price point may prevent the iPhone from achieving greater adoption over the short term. It may be an early-adopter product that appeals to technophiles but initially leaves other interested users on the outside looking in.”

But leave it to rival player Joe Costello, CEO of Orb Networks, to point to the obvious 2.5G technology in the iPhone and turn it into a sales pitch for his Orb software, which features in 3’s X-series phone range.

“Let’s face it: the iPhone is going to be out of reach for most people,” said Costello. “But if you download a free copy of Orb onto your PC, anything you can play on your computer, you can play on any phone that has a streaming media player. That turns 140m phones – models from all major handset makers and all major carriers – into media phones.”

By John Kennedy