back to article Apple to look to software to differentiate multiple iPhone models

Apple is considering launching multiple iPhone models each differentiated by software, rather than hardware capabilities, company executives have hinted. Yair Reiner, an analyst at Oppenheimer, recently met with several unnamed Apple executives who, he claimed, said: “[The] iPhone is still in its early days and could gain …


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  1. Niles
    Thumb Down

    Bad plan!

    And risk alienating their user base and causing increased hacking. Software differentiation really just amounts to disabled features. Buying a machine that has capabilities that you can't access pisses people off.

    Would you be happy to buy a car with an air conditioning unit, but no button to turn it on? Or would you think that was a rip off. No reason that's any different with electronics.

    If I bought that car, I would rewire it, and if I bought that iPhone, I would hack it.

  2. Jerome

    iPhone Home Premium edition? Really ?

    Does anyone really think Apple would introduce product editions a la MS Vista/Seven?

    Software differentiation has advantages, but does not make any sense for Apple in such a form.

    Hardware differentiation has drawbacks too, but having 2 or 3 globally available hardware products could make sense if their differentiation does.

    Maybe Apple should have thought about hardware differentiation for the iPod(s) ;-)

  3. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Where's Jobs?

    This is a stupid idea, you can tell that Jobs isn't at the helm. Other Apple execs have always struggled with what to do with the company.

    While other phones have a "do everthing" approach this would create a problem where you would need to own three iPhones to get the features of other smartphones.

    The software is where all the power is at present, the iPhone hardware is fairly sub-par. So spitting the software is crazy. Just look at Windows Mobile with it's smartphone and phone editions. Microsoft has been wanting to merge the two for ages.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    What about Mobile Me?

    I see that in the UK O2 is introducing something similar to functionality in Mobile Me (basically shared calendars to other O2 users?).

    So... I'd guess that an overwhelming additionality to new iPhone users or new to Apple users might be a Mobile Me (either lite or full monty) bundled along with iPhone and contract.

    Then again it might just be me enthralled under new-to-Mac stuff?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    This is the real reason...

    ...why the bastards are so opposed to unlocking. So they can stitch us up by charging more money for the same damn thing. Bastards.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    part 2 ..

    Ah! There it is!

    Interim conclusion?

    Apple might be better advised to incorporate Mobile Me with iPhone and ...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Part 3 ...

    Oh, and before I forget, maybe Apple could do more on its marketing to SMEs?

    Maybe they already do so for all I know but I must have encountered several hundred SMEs over the years that would benefit considerably from Macs in the office with commercial based Mobile Me accounts sharing calendars privately online.

    But maybe Apple does not want to offer services and extend into SME areas?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Part 3 ...

    Uh-huh. I'm convinced now...

    + the apps market is flourishing

    + games potential will evolve naturally

    + iTunes connectivity is sweet de la sweet

    = all is fine and dandy there. Don't knock it.

    Where is it undernourished?


    Small business requiring:

    2 iMacs

    1 Mac Pro

    2 Mac Books

    2 Dells (some swear that Windows is ... well, you know)

    Time capsule

    wi-fi'd office network with shared printers (scanner USB'ed to Mac Pro)

    Time Capsule set up so it can be accessed safely out of the office online running 24/7

    6 iPhones


  9. Anonymous Coward

    It could make sense. if it was only two.

    iphone - keep as is.

    have the below as a 'virtual machine'

    iphone - 'corporate' allowing businesses to control the iphone / push company applications etc. locked down environment. enforce password use. Similar to BES. Incorporate RSA soft key.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I hope they aren't serious

    Software differentiation on the iPhone without a corresponding hardware differentiation would be a bad idea. Not the least of those reasons have already been said in that it will just annoy people and cause a ton more hacking. Now if they tweaked the base OS to fit a particular hardware feature that would be different, say a video iPhone with decent optics and stripped down Final Cut. That being said though the hardware distinction that Apple has with the iPod works for them and works well and I hope they stick to that when it comes to the iPhone.

    Some days though it seems Apple is bent on trying to figure out how to shoe horn the MS business model into their operation. This idea strikes me as having come straight from the Vista/Seven marketing people.

  11. Julian Bond
    Thumb Down

    Hard disk

    Oi! Where's my 240Gb hard disk iPhone?

  12. Charles Manning

    Sounds dodgy

    It isn't a matter of technical possibility but customer perception.

    On Windows + Mac computers people expect to pay for software and software differentiation can work well. On Linux computers people are far less likely to feel that they should pay for software.

    Phones and PMPs are a different matter again. If people feel they have to pay more to enable some device features then they might feel cheated - that Apple is holding part of their phone hostage.

    But then Apple probably understands their customers better than you or I do. One would expect that they would do sufficient market research to see if the strategy will actually work.

  13. Antidisestablishmentarianist

    I've said it before...

    ...but when your hardware is just a big touch screen, there isn't much further you can go - I mean how many different chrome bezels can they come up with?

    This means it's all down to the software.

    If they segment it's fine - as long as you can upgrade AND downgrade. It'll let some noobie start of with the basics and work through to the full monty, without shelling out for new hardware. Apple will take your second child as payment for such functionality though - but that's nothing new.

    I would have thought Hackers would have been cheering the news - it'll give them something to have a go at.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    And the clouds parted, a voice from the heavens says...

    WHATEVER APPLE SAYS GOES! All you iTards have to suck it up and deal with what St. Jobs says you need. Now DON"T BE HACKIN' NOW! Stevie hates that too. There will be the Apple hack police to make sure all you iDiots be good little boys and girls.

  15. Mark

    Likely move

    I think the most likely differentiation is corporate vs home user. One where the phone can be configured, enabled/disabled, and locked down from a distance and the other where you do what you want with it (subject to the will of Jobs). The blackberry-esque control mechanism is probably what corporates are waiting for before they let the management have their new shiny toy. This is a massive market for sales for apple, given the number of portable devices lost and broken by pointy haired bosses, and a route into the enterprise (albeit a limited one).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It *could* work...

    ...but only so long as you could still get the missing software. ie. You don't care about video so you buy the iPhone that doesn't have the video recording app. Later you change your mind and want that functionality, so you pay a bit extra to get the video recording app.

    Now if only Apple had some kind of "store" that you could buy "apps" at. Say, an "App store."

  17. snafu

    Of course they would. They are Apple

    For a long while Apple iBooks had hardware able to do extended desktops over two monitors but no firmware to allow it: desktop mirroring only... until some guy distributed the required enabler hack.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Part 3 ... (well, who is counting?)

    Yep, I can easily say

    iPlay on my iPhone

    I can't say with equal ease

    iWork on my iPhone


    + iPlay on my iPhone is fine and dandy and will evolve dynamically with iPhone 3.x and partners/contributors

    + iWork on my iPhone needs Apple's vision, foresight, marketing and intervention.

    This is an across Apple initiative encompassing the traditional hardware, software and firmware BLENDED with across device ease of use with endpoint: SME with no time, resource or skills in IT.

  19. Ascylto
    Jobs Halo

    @ And the clouds parted ...

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods.

    Ooooooooh ... FEEL the hate!

  20. Jamie Hylton

    Enterprise, Home, Professional

    Based on the Microsoft ideaology...

    iPhone Enterprise Edition - Some kind of encryption available, aimed at blackberry business users, basic menu, no extra toys.

    iPhone Home Edition - Standard OS3.0 menus, AppStore available, but most of these users probably won't bother using it.

    iPhone Professional Edition - OS3.0 on steriods... Camcorder, iMovie Lite... etc.

    Can't see them offering different software versions for use of Camcorder, iPod, YouTube etc, that would just be stupid.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Part 4...

    Get locked in to yet another long Apple tie-in.

    Apple - for people who cannot think for themselves.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    :-) re: AC 08:34

    Yes, true, true.

    But when a lock-in or tie-in affords greater cross devices functionality at much reduced cost and doable with limited skills well, ... it has to be a worthwhile consideration?

  23. Darren


    This is pointless, you'll just go to the App store and download the necessary apps, also, as mentioned earlier, increased hacking, more people will turn to external apps to control their iPods/iPhones

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: AC 09:30

    Fine if you like hobby computers & Fisher Price phones.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Part 3 ... (well, who is counting?) Part 2?

    Oh yes, back to the original topic.

    Q: Fragmenting the iPhone?

    My A: No, not yet. It's too young and has a lot more to do. It needs to consider iPlay and iWork functionality and how that settles in with Apple's wider hardware and software product portfolios.

    Once the iWork issue has been settled (inclusively and positively) then there are likely to be two dynamics at work: the business end and the play end. That is the time to consider fragmenting the iPhone, its inbuilt functionality and its contractual obligations/plans.

  26. Ascylto

    @ Part 4

    Complete agreement with second sentence!

    One of the reasons I buy Apple equipment is precisely so I DON'T HAVE TO THINK where my next virus is going to attack or whether I'm going to get the Blue Screen of Death.

    I pay my favourite computer company loads of my cash precisely so THEY do the thinking for me so I can use my mind on the programs which earn me the money to buy good equipment and other good things.

    So, smartarse, try some thinking yourself (not too much, now, it might hurt). One liners are for comedians and you're not even good at that!

  27. TeeCee Gold badge
    Jobs Halo

    The only question is:

    Whether the hack to turn iPhone lite into iPhone full-fat ships before or after the launch of the product itself.

    This would be the one thing that turned jailbreaking iPhones from a niche, techy thing into a mainstream act.

    I agree that Jobs must have had no involvement here. He may be a lot of things, but dumb enough to point a shotgun at his foot and pull both triggers ain't one of 'em.

  28. Richard

    Oh, brilliant

    You know, that whole software differentiation thing worked SO well with the Performa line back in the 90s, why WOULDN'T you do it again? I mean, 1994-1996 was such a great time for Apple, wasn't it?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    One of the reasons is so Jobsey can justify flogging his iPhones to China and the 3rd world at a cheaper price. "It is half the price that you Western suckers pay but it has much less functionality"....

  30. Law
    Jobs Horns

    Try it Apple....

    ... and the second you do it I'm getting a different phone... the whole point of the phone is that it's easy to use and simple, but with enough features that make it useful - start charging me for mix&match updates or modifying prices based on the "profile" and I will quickly drop the phone. Simples.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Such an "Exclusive" that this story isn't showing anywhere else

    not even the most fervid of Apple rumour-mongery. Maybe they all reckon it's bullshit?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Didn't Canon do something similar with one of its cameras about 10 years ago?

    Merely a hack turned base model into top of range model by modifying a .bat file?

  33. Timo

    segmentation of HW = hard, SW = easy

    It is very hard to segment or "differentiate" models of any phone based on hardware - just think of the combinations of speakerphone, bluetooth, camera, music, storage that you might put into any phone, and the number of hardware combinations becomes a huge hurdle and screws up the economies of scale for the hardware manufacturers.

    However enabling or crippling various parts via software is what software is best at doing. But someone already mentioned it above that software can be broken to re-enable the parts that Apple decided you didn't deserve.

    Maybe Apple should come out with a phone that only lets you dial half of the digits (1-5) and then for an upgrade you can use the other keys. Or imagine only the even or odd numbers! Or they could probably even do it per call (a small surcharge to place those (815) area code calls!

    This really must be a challenge for companies and is a strange problem to have: if you give people everything they want in release 1.0, then what will you do for release 2 that will be compelling enough for them to buy anew? Consumers are also wise to "forced" obsolescense these days.

  34. David Kelly

    @ac re: cameras

    10 years ago? Camera manufacturers still disable certain options in the firmware of their cheaper models to differentiate them from more expensive ones.

  35. Austin Blackwood
    Thumb Down

    Eh, no.

    The whole beauty of Apple is that it has one, simple OS across all its systems. Why on earth would they handicap their software?

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