IPhone’s future intrigues observers

Apple’s heavily promoted iPhone ended 2007 as what one analyst calls the fastest-iphoneicon growing consumer electronics product ever. And research analysts expect sales to top Apple’s projections for 2008.

But don’t look for a new model early this year, analysts say. Apple (AAPL) historically makes new-product announcements at the Macworld conference, scheduled this year for Jan. 14. Many fans are looking for Apple CEO Steve Jobs to introduce a possibly smaller iPhone.

Independent analyst Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group believes upgrades will be offered for the existing iPhone, including access to a faster Internet network and an improved battery.

Apple declined to comment.

While the iPhone received rave reviews for its style and functionality, critics complained about the speed of Apple partner AT&T’s (T) data network.

The iPhone is a combination iPod, cellphone and portable Internet device.

AT&T has said it would bring faster service to the iPhone in 2008.

Additionally, Apple has said it would open the iPhone to outside software developers in February, which could turn the iPhone into a more versatile device. Doherty expects to see previews at Macworld. “You’ll see Apple working with financial institutions to turn the iPhone into something like an electronic credit card,” he says.

When Jobs announced the iPhone a year ago at Macworld, he predicted Apple would sell 10 million by the end of 2008. Piper Jaffray (PJC) analyst Gene Munster believes sales will top 12 million, and that the bulk of extra sales will happen at the end of the year, when he believes Apple will drop the price to $299 from $399.

Doherty pegs total iPhone sales at 3 million units. Apple’s official tally, through Sept. 30, is 1.4 million iPhones sold in the USA.

Apple launched the iPhone on June 29. By Sept. 10, it had sold its first million, which Doherty says is the best showing for any consumer electronics product ever.

He says Apple’s market share in cellphones already exceeds that of smartphones that work with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (MSFT) operating system – just under a million users, he says. But those phones have yet to catch up to phones that work with Palm’s system, like the popular Treo. He says Palm (PALM) has a base of more than 2 million users of the Treo phone, “but they’ve been at it for over eight years.”


Via Yahoo

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