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Fruit wars! Apple aims guns at BlackBerry

But is iPhone as great as Steve Jobs makes out?

Apple's market power derives not merely from its technology, but from its adeptness at reframing a familiar market to limit the field of competitors.

At the press conference at which iPhone's Exchange Server connectivity and software development kit (SDK) were unveiled, Steve Jobs established and reinforced the premise that in eight months, iPhone redefined the entire smartphone market. Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 60 are now irrelevant, leaving only two relevant players, iPhone and BlackBerry. Given that BlackBerry is old, tacky, and unreliable, enterprises oughtn't waste time trying to prop it up. Out with the old, in with the new.

This mirrors the swipes that Apple used to take at Microsoft. They're always delivered with the Jobsian wink and smirk, but they are far from the offhand remarks they're packaged to be. They're very carefully targeted. In BlackBerry's case, Jobs took the opportunity to reveal some little-known information about BlackBerry - widely published, just not the kind of details that BlackBerry users care about - and portray it as a powerful disadvantage that makes the fresh technology that iPhone brings to the market a necessity.

I grant that iPhone outshines BlackBerry as a platform for graphical mobile applications, with the drawback being that writing iPhone software for your personal use will cost you $99 (BlackBerry, Nokia, and Microsoft impose no charges). I think that Apple could have made more hay by showing a text-based custom BlackBerry app next to the same application done in Technicolor and full motion on iPhone. Instead, Apple focused its battle with BlackBerry on two simple points: BlackBerry handsets are ugly, and BlackBerry's network is old fashioned, insecure, and unreliable.

I'll grant you, my BlackBerry 8820 is industrial in its styling. That was my choice. BlackBerry handsets are now in all sizes and colours, with the bonus that every model has matching messaging functionality. Consumers and fashion-conscious professionals have swarmed to Curve, BlackBerry's jazzy QWERTY handset, and more compact phone-like devices that have the same standard BlackBerry messaging capabilities. No BlackBerry's screen is as large as iPhone's, but iPhone's visible display space is cut considerably when the huge on-screen keyboard slides in. A BlackBerry squeezes more text onto its smaller screen, and both fonts and font sizes are adjustable to match your vision.

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