Apple's latest gadget is drawing lots of attention at the MacWorld Expo. It's a cell phone that doubles as an iPod and offers Web access, too. It will be available in the U.S. in June, with Cingular Wireless as the exclusive phone-service partner.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Our business news starts with a name change in the computer industry.
Apple Computer has formally changed its name to Apple, Inc. to reflect the company's new emphasis on consumer electronics. Yesterday the company unveiled its long-awaited iPhone. For now at least the buzz is drowning out talk of Apple CEO's Steve Jobs and his involvement in a financial scandal over stock options. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.
WENDY KAUFMAN: Each year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage at the Macworld Expo and with great fanfare shows off the company's latest invention. This year it's a combination iPod, Internet communications device, and a mobile phone.
(Soundbite of phone ringing)
KAUFMAN: Jobs proudly demonstrates.
Unidentified Man: Hello, Steve.
Mr. STEVE JOBS (CEO, Apple, Inc.): Hey, Johnny, how you doing?
Unidentified Man: I'm good. How you doing?
Mr. JOBS: Well, I can't tell you how thrilled I am to make the first public phone call with iPhone.
KAUFMAN: To listen to music, watch movies, send e-mail or search the web, iPhone users simply touch an icon with their finger. Although many of the features already exist on some smart phones, industry analyst Mike McGuire of the Gardner Group says Apple's total package is unique.
Mr. MIKE MCGUIRE (Industry Analyst, Gardner Group): I think it's an extremely slick device that bears all the hallmarks of an Apple breakthrough product.
KAUFMAN: With a price tag of $499 for the four-gigabyte version, it's not for the masses. Still analysts, including McGuire, believe that for Apple entering the mobile phone market makes financial sense.
Mr. MCGUIRE: It gets them into a whole new class of products where they were not before. The total available market for mobile phones, as we know, it dwarfs everything else.
KAUFMAN: The iPhone will be available in the U.S. beginning in June. Cingular Wireless will be the exclusive partner.
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A phone that triples as an iPod, a PDA and a camera. A device that streams movies and TV from your computers to your TV. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs — the black-turtlenecked, bespectacled geek-turned-guru — announced that Apple would release the iPhone and AppleTV in 2007, techies started to salivate.
But the real question is: Should you rush out and get them?
Well, you can't right now. The AppleTV ($299) won't ship until February, and the touchpad-enabled iPhone ($499,4GB; $599, 8GB) is only available to Cingular customers and won't ship until June. Bob Cringely, host of the PBS tech-nerd show I, Cringely, says you might want to wait even longer.
"Apple always tries to say 'available right now' on any new product, and the fact that they couldn't do that says something," he explains. "The fact that they can't deliver the iPhone until June suggests that there might be production problems."
Other tech gurus focused on the things that were missing from Jobs' announcement. Like the word 'computer', which Apple is dropping from its official title (it's now Apple Inc.) because they're focusing more now on non-computery items. And the fact that Jobs didn't mention expected updates to the iLife software suite or the next version of the Mac operating system. BusinessWeek questioned the battery life of the new phone, which will pull double duty as a battery-slurping iPod. And CNET.com focused on Steve Jobs' odd musical choices. (John Mayer, who was there in person (!) sans Jessica Simpson.)
Still, many Mac enthusiasts were overjoyed at the prospect of annihilating their pocket protectors full of electronic devices. Within hours, more than 1,000 pictures were posted on Flickr.com. Dana Gardner at ZDNet.com said he "practically needed a shower" after Jobs' speech. MacWorlders couldn't put their thoughts into words. And the staff of Artstechnica can all yell Bingo! — their preemptive possible-Jobs-announcement game card overfloweth.