It will be remembered as the day that almost every Apple rumour on the Internet came true simultaneously. Perched on the edges of their seats, attendees at Macworld San Francisco watched Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the iPhone.
The iPhone includes iPod features, a version of OS X and a new touch-screen gesture-based interface which drew the crowd to a standing ovation.
Maintaining its tradition of religious secrecy prior to launch, Apple has today stunned the technology world with a product that could potentially do to the mobile phone market what the iPod did to MP3 players.
Jobs' presentation could not have been in starker contrast to Bill Gates' keynote address at CES on Sunday. The show floor here in Las Vegas seemed to stop and hold its breath while the Apple frontman delivered his revelations and dozens of bloggers transcribed them in real time.
While Gates talked of a fantasy future where schoolchildren would have 50 plasma TVs glued to their bedroom walls showing tropical fish screensavers, Jobs hadn't just imagined the future, he'd gone and built it.
The iPhone's gesture-based interface is staggeringly innovative -- if you suspect us of hyperbole, check out the videos on Apple's site. Award winning iPod designer Jonathan Ives told the Macworld crowd, "It's not too shabby, is it?" That was perhaps the understatement of the decade. The phone runs a version of Apple's desktop operating system, OS X, and includes Widgets, Google Maps, the Safari browser and iTunes with CoverFlow. Apple has partnered with Google and Yahoo to bring maps and email to the device, which is set for US release in June and European release towards the end of 2007. The 4GB model will be priced at $499 and the 8GB model at $599 (about £250 and £300 respectively).
Apple's sleek black phone casts a long shadow over CES, a show the company has always snubbed. While we have seen some wonderful innovation from smaller companies at CES, such as the Emtrace WidgetStation, almost everything in the Central Hall seems eerily familiar. Many of the big players such as Sony and Microsoft seem to have dusted off last year's stands, complete with products. The format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray remains unresolved, the PlayStation 3 remains largely unavailable and Windows Vista remains uninspiring and unlaunched in its consumer version.
Motorola, in particular, must feel that Apple played a cruel joke on it with the abysmal Rokr E1. Those who doubted Apple had some agenda in crippling the Rokr should take a look at just how obscenely advanced the iPhone is. This is clearly a product that was in development for many years -- certainly not an evolution of the Rokr, and almost mocking in its superiority.
Walking past the stands of the major phone manufacturers in Las Vegas this afternoon, there was a sense that they turned up to the wrong party. The real consumer electronics show is happening 560 miles away in San Francisco. -CS