Is iPhone becoming a BlackBerry killer?

Apple says it will introduce a series of business applications for the iPhone, as the company prepares to finally open the device up to third-party developers.

Is iPhone becoming a BlackBerry killer?

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs investment conference in the US, the company revealed it would introduce iPhone features aimed at businesses, potentially stepping up competition with RIM’s popular BlackBerry devices.

Apple gave no hint of what enterprise features would be unveiled, but many professional users have clamoured for BlackBerry-style push email.

“Apple has acknowledged that there has been great interest in the enterprise community for the iPhone,” says Tim Bajarin, principal analyst of Creative Strategies. “There’s no question it has great potential in enterprise given the right application.”

Apple will detail the software roadmap for the iPhone on 6 March at its Cupertino, California headquarters.

Opening up the phone to third-party developers should also bring more business features to the device. The company is expected to release its iPhone developers’ kit shortly, and analysts believe that this will give the device another timely boost.

“Apple has understood the importance of local applications and they are responding to that, and it will help them sell more iPhones,” says Bajarin. “It should release a plethora of creative applications and it will make the iPhone much more practical as a mobile applications tool.”

Sales on track

Apple also used the conference to affirm its iPhone sales goal for this year. Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, says he has “really good confidence” the company will hit its oft-stated goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.

Analysts have expressed concern in recent weeks over iPhone sales and the practice of “unlocking” them to run on non-preferred networks. Bernstein Research last month estimated that more than a quarter of iPhones were “unlocked”, putting pressure on Apple’s business model because it can’t collect a portion of carrier fees from those users.

Cracking down on unlocked phones could scare users away and cause Apple to miss its sales target for the device, whereas allowing them could erode profitability and make it tough to sign more carriers to similar revenue-sharing deals, Bernstein claimed.

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