3G iPhone this week, Newton multi-touch handheld at WWDC?

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) – Another week, another 3G iPhone speculation – and you are at the right place to get the latest on Apple rumors that are leading up to the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June. Apple has been confirming sudden iPhone shortages  in the U.S. and UK over weekend, which leads some to believe that we might see a premature 3G iPhone launch in May and a surprising product announcement (after all, there has to be at least one surprise, right?) in June.

What most Apple-related blogs have been buzzing since Saturday is now confirmed by U.S. Apple Stores salespeople: The iPhone is out of stock company-wide, possibly indicating an imminent release of the 3G iPhone, before the speculated WWDC introduction and the generally expected end-of-June U.S. availability. First, the UK iPhone carrier O2 and supplier Carphone Warehouse (which is currently being acquired by Best Buy) cleared its inventory of the 8 GB iPhone, following a £100 price drop. Soon thereafter, both companies told the Register that both iPhone models are "no longer available". It did not take long until iPhone shortages were reported in the U.S. and Apple sales representatives confirmed on yesterday that the "iPhone is out-of-stock company wide", according to MacWorld UK.

Now that shortages have been confirmed, we wonder if a product refresh will happen in May or is still slated for June. It really depends on Apple and the company’s ability to afford an intentional draught of iPhone stock to inflate demand. In the end, WWDC is still almost a month out and the rumored availability of the 3G iPhone almost two months. In order to hit its self-imposed 10 million unit target by the end of the year, every second counts and we are somewhat confused that Apple would decide to scrap more than 45 days of possible sales. If we look at Apple's 1.7 million iPhones sold in Q2, the company sells just under 600,000 phones each month and would mean that this artificial shortage would kill about 800,000-900,000 unit sales. Is that price too high to stimulate demand?

If the 3G iPhone becomes immediately available after Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote on June 9, then Apple could offset lost sales through increased 3G iPhone demand. The company is no stranger to creating artificial shortages ahead of a product refresh and this time we may just be days before a 3G iPhone release. Similar Apple product shortages usually happen just days ahead of a product refresh, not weeks. Today's introduction of the RIM's BlackBerry 9000 could also have something to do with premature a 3G iPhone introduction. RIM's iPhone-inspired product is heavily equipped in terms of connectivity: It comes with tri-band HSDPA, quad-band EDGE support, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth and GPS.

It is interesting to note that the iPod touch is listed as “available”. Some may interpret this fact as a sign that the 3G iPhone is an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary product. If no significant changes are made to the handset (besides the firmware and the phone hardware parts such as GPS and 3G), then it's only conclusive that the iPod touch remains in the sales channel. So far, firmware leaks have indicated the addition of 3G, GPS, a video camera and, possibly, VoIP and videoconferencing as the 3G iPhone's killer applications. A May 3G iPhone release would be consistent with speculations published by the Switch to a Mac website.

So, but if we are really only days away from 3G iPhone, then we're left with a question: What would Apple introduce at the WWDC? In the end, there is no Steve Jobs keynote with a “one more thing” remark. And this creates room for more speculation. Industry watchers believe that Apple will bring a Newton-inspired handheld multi-touch gadget, positioned halfway between the iPhone and Macbook Air. Steve Jobs certainly admitted Apple has been working on such a device and there have been some hints to such a device in Apple's patent application. The rumor-mill says Apple didn't scrap Newton, but continued to develop the device secretly in its labs.

According to those rumors, a mini-tablet device is believed to be 1.5 times the size of the iPhone, equipped with a multi-touch screen capable of running at 720x480 pixels. Of course, the device would be powered by Mac OS X. An Unexpected PDA introduction would fit into Apple's market strategy so far. Whenever competitors catch up, Apple seems to change battleground and the rules of the game. Such a strategy has been driving iPod competitors nuts and could work extremely well with the iPhone. Overnight, handset makers would have to deal not only with Apple's handset but with a sleek PDA device as well. The move would also create a new market for Apple, up the product portfolio and increase company's footprint in the consumer electronics space. And, after all, we have been saying it all along that the world needs an Apple UMPC-like device.

Either way, there is clearly something going on with this sudden iPhone shortage. We just hope that Apple has a 3G iPhone ready and with these new rumors emerging, Apple better has another killer device ready for introduction. We don’t even want to speculate what may happen to Apple’s stock, if all those rumors aren’t true and Apple isn’t able to deliver on those expectations.