Apple's iPhone: Big Changes Ahead Next Week?


I just got my invite to the next big Apple media event. This one is called iPhone Software Roadmap and it'll take place at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California on March 6th.

But above and beyond the already expected release of its Software Developers Kit, or "SDK," there's also the tease of some "exciting new enterprise" features. And it's that tease that should have the folks at RIM a little concerned.

One of the big knocks on iPhone is that it was so consumer-oriented right out of the gate; that big, corporate IT departments were reluctant to let workers use the device, not just because of price but because of enterprise capability. While the price has come down, the enterprise connection has been lacking.

Should that change, and it appears that it will, that could catapult iPhone into an even bigger success than it's already been. Exchange support for iPhone, as an example, could be a boon. An external, compact, Bluetooth keyboard could help. iPhone as a mobile enterprise device could be a very compelling thing.

Apple's iPhone has only been on the market a few months, but has already captured the number 3 position in the marketplace behind Nokia and RIM. Apple's 2.3 million phones shipped last quarter is paltry compared to the 60.5 million that Nokia shipped last year.

And that's precisely why third-party software development and enterprise initiatives are so important to Apple right now. The right steps on both could dramatically turbo-charge iPhone sales. Based on the wording of the Apple announcement today, and believe me when I tell you we parse EVERY word, it's not clear that the SDK will actually be released next week, or whether the company will just be providing a time-table for an upcoming release. It will be interesting no matter what.

Strategically though, the timing of the event is a little quirky. It'll come two days AFTER the company's shareholder meeting. With a stock down more than 40 percent this year, I'd have reversed these two happenings. As it is, Apple will have to answer to a bunch of frustrated, angry, disappointed shareholders who have watched Apple stock plunge.

Two days later, they'll get the good news of the software roadmap and enterprise strategy. Reverse the two events by announcing the software roadmap first, and you'll blunt shareholder criticism since Apple stock will probably see a nice bounce from all this. (We're already seeing that today.)

Either way, the question and answer periods for both events--assuming there will be time set aside for audience questions--should yield some interesting responses. Steve Jobs already released a hand-holding email to employees as the stock continued to fall. Now he'll have his chance to deliver the same kind of message to his shareholders. Just two days ahead of what could be major news for iPhone.

Next week belongs to Apple.

Questions? Comments?