Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
Last week's fake iPhone delay memo may have served as a rare marketplace laboratory. When Apple announced that Leopard was slipping four months, the investors mostly shrugged, but news that the iPhone was being delayed sent Cupertino's Apple tumbling faster than the one that fell on Newton's head. (However, of course there are no perfect lab conditions in the market, and the reaction may have been compounded by this being a second delay for Apple's OS.)
Yes, Apple is a latecomer to the handset market, but the iPhone is early to market in some ways. Had Apple not announced it back in January, it might not have stood out as much from an increasing wave of touchscreen handsets from LG, Samsung and others. But the most ostensible reason for Apple to launch the iPhone is to strike back against a rash of music phones that enjoy the luxury of prime pocket real estate and carrier subsidization. Although the distribution of such phones is growing every quarter, they haven't yet seemed to slow the sales of iPods.
Over-the-air wireless services offer promising capabilities such as song identification and the untethered building of playlists on the fly. Handset manufacturers, though, are still several years behind in terms of Apple's technology -- or at least marketing -- if last week's official unveiling of Motorola's handsets was any indication. Motorola touted the superiority of its ROKR Z8 "media monster" over other music phones due to its use of USB 2.0; Moto also spoke of the benefits of being able to swap out multiple microSD cards without having to remove the Z8's battery in order to provide users with nearly infinite storage.