iPhone 2.0 - it is not only the Enterprise, baby, it's the mix!

I know, I know, I know: it is all a bit tiring and I just wrote about the iPhone vs Blackberry thingee a couple of weeks ago but there is a nice new piece by one of my favourite columnists on this, namely the NY Times' David Pogue. He considers the software update (nick-named iPhone 2.0) as more significant as the phone itself as it opens the thing up into 2 dimensions:

1. An attack on the enterprise market with MS Exchange support, push-e-mail and everything else RIM's Blackberry, Palm's Treo and all the others already have (although Pogue also readily concedes that the absence of a QWERTY keyboard might mar its success a bit; see here for Apple's intro on it)

2. the awakening of a mobile phone as a true multi-purpose entertainment device (through the introduction of the developer programme and release of the iPhone's SDK - which, incidentally - also extends to the iPod Touch).

Now, I have covered the first point but the let the latter one on the wayside. And, one could say, rightly so: all existing phones, J2ME, BREW, i-mode and all, have had - more or less - readily available SDK's for (wireless industry's) eons. And did it make it a mass market tool? No, it did not. Also today with all the super-powerful phones around, only a (growing) fraction of users actually make use of these things. Why should this change with the iPhone? Well, possibly for the same reasons that made the iPod such a success - in conjunction with iTunes that was.

What Apple managed with the iPod was two things: it brought a device to the market that even my mum could use (and she is rather technophobic) and it provided a clear-cut, transparent, easy-to-use retail model for the contents to be meant to be stored and played on that thing, and that was iTunes.

Now, incidentally, these two challenges are indeed the very ones mobile content often faces today: intuitive UI on mobile phones is still only to be found rarely ("the application you are trying to download is untrusted. Do you want to continue?") and the retail space is cluttered and dominated by companies who excelled in building highly evolved technical networks but have rarely sparkled with superior consumer understanding. Apple is good at both...

Number 3 would then be discovery and here Apple's novel business model with tight integration and control may actually bear rich fruit: because of the huge amount of influence (and commercial participation) Apple apparently retains with its chosen carrier partners, it is much easier for it to guarantee the placement of the app store on its phones. Other OEMs have a much harder battle at hand there: carriers routinely request that any number of applications, games, etc are being removed for phones they order; because of the huge power the large carriers have (in most countries handsets are subsidised by the carrier), OEMs struggle to assert themselves (although Nokia seems to be making at least some headway with its Ovi portal; see e.g. here and here). For Apple this is a home-run though, which is a significant advantage.

The only relief would then be that Nokia would still appear to be selling the amount of handsets Apple sells in a year within one week or so. Still...

Modu is raising a big round

One of the quirky stars of this year's Mobile World Congress, Modu, is apparently scoring a large round of funding, namely to the tune of $100m. The company adds to $20m funding previously raised from its founder Dov Moran (who had sold his previous business for $1.6bn to SanDisk), two Israeli funds, namely Genesis Partners and Gemini, and indeed SanDisk. The round values modu pre-money at $150m, which is healthy for an 18-month-old company but, according to the press, still $50m less of what Mr Moran had hoped to score.

Modu is an interesting concept that shrinks the key bit of the phone (including SIM card, address book, etc to a matchbox size, which then can be slipped into a variety of so-called "jackets", fancy phones that can be adapted to whichever occasion the user might find appropriate or indeed "mates", which enable other consumer electronics devices with the bliss of connectivity and the like.

The challenge may well be that the jackets and mates are supposed to be developed by third parties, and to convince enough players to do that (which is arguably required to create a compelling offering) might be the biggest challenge.

In time for Barcelona, Modu had announced a number of partnerships, including operators Vimpelcom (Russia), Cellcom (Israel) and TIM (Italy). Blaupunkt, GPS specialists Magellan Navigations and - again - SanDisk have apparently pledged support, too. On the content side, the world's largest music company Universal Music, navigation service provider TeleAtlas and a few more are in the mix.

I really do like it and I really hope that they'll pull it off. Somewhat clearly thought out of the box here, and that deserves praise!

Update: Modu has just received recognition of a Guinness World Record for the lightest mobile phone (at 40.1 grams and dimensions of 72.1mm x 37.6mm x 7.8mm).