IPhone 3G S and the 'Uh Oh' Moment

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While those in the halls of Moscone West (and the rest of us virtually looking on via live updates posted from within Moscone) cheered Apple's many announcements Monday, a small segment of the population undoubtedly reacted not with joy but rather foreboding. For, behind the Wows, Awesomes, and Gimmies could be heard the faint sound of someone's lunch being eaten.

Twitter tells us that June 8, 2009 is hardly a red-letter day for Palm or the owners of a PowerPC-based Mac, but I'm addressing neither here. The Pre isn't a bad phone for a 1.0 release and Palm's certainly going to refine it. And PowerPC Mac owners will get along just as well as those Mac users who stopped with Tiger because they needed the Classic environment.

No, I'm thinking of the people working in Garmin and TomTom's hardware divisions and Pure Digital, makers of the Flip pocket camcorders. While we iPhone users can certainly celebrate functional GPS turn-by-turn navigation (with voice feedback, yet) from our phones and a video camera that supports on-camera editing and delivery, you have to think a few of the people responsible for such functions on separate hardware devices had a long "Uh oh" moment upon hearing Apple's plans.

Oh sure, TomTom's in on the iPhone by way of a navigation app and separate hardware device for using the iPhone in the car. Garmin surely isn't far behind. And the iPhone 3G S only shoots in VGA, while both Pure Digital's Flip MinoHD and UltraHD offer the advantage of 720p high-definition shooting. And, of course, the iPhone's cost-of-ownership-over-time is going to provide safe-haven for these devices for awhile.

But only for awhile. When iPhones are as omnipresent as iPods, look out. If every gadget manufacturer across the land hasn't taken a long second look at their business plan based on the iPhone existence--particularly after today's announcements--it's time they did.

Because in all the discussion of other mobile phones and mobile operating systems, people tend to forget that the iPhone is a portable computer that happens to make calls. And while that makes for diverting discussion when comparing one "iPhone killer" to The Real Deal, it's just as interesting to consider that the iPhone has (and will continue to have) a profound effect on our day-to-day digital doodads. Like so: How many iPhone owners would buy a pocket calculator, portable CD player, PIM, pocket recorder, VOIP handset, handheld gaming device, and, soon, universal remote, handheld GPS, or pocket camcorder?

This stuff is going the way of the dodo because we pack a chameleon in our pocket in the form of our iPhones. We've talked for years about the cell phone as the ultimate convergence device. With the ultimately adaptable iPhone 3G S, we're just about there. This thrills me to the core. But then I'm not the guy responsible for making and selling single-purpose handheld devices. If I were, I'd be considering my future very carefully.

This story, "IPhone 3G S and the 'Uh Oh' Moment" was originally published by Macworld.

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