Steve Jobs fields questions following Apple's UK iPhone launchIn a question an answer session following Apple's UK iPhone announcement Tuesday morning, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs fielded questions on future software updates for the handset, third-party application development, the ongoing unlocking saga, 3G iPhones, and revenue share agreements with wireless providers.
Jobs said Apple is still working on the version of the Wi-Fi iTunes Music Store that will work with the iPhone, which hasn't launched yet but will soon be made available via an iPhone software update. In the US, customers will be able to browse the store from an iPhone or iPod touch via a free Wi-Fi connection at certain Starbucks locations, but the same will not be true for UK customers. Why? Jobs had no concrete answer and instead suggested that reporters "ask Starbucks" about the matter, implying that Apple may have sought a similar Wi-Fi sharing deal with the coffee house overseas but has yet to reach an agreement.
The Apple boss was seemingly more willing to discuss the company's stance on iPhone unlocks and third-party application development. "This is constant cat-and-mouse game," he said of the ongoing attempts to untether the handset from its intended carriers. "[P]eople are going to try and break in and it's our job to try and stop them."
Meanwhile, Jobs acknowledged that third-party developers have started to produce several intriguing, yet unofficial iPhone applications. He said Apple is looking at some of them closely, especially those that don't require a connection to the Internet. It's likely that those applications would be the first of any to receive an official endorsement from Apple, according to Jobs' comments, as those that require Internet access could threaten the 'high standard' of experience customers have come to expect with the iPhone.
Jobs also left the door open for a 3G version of the iPhone somewhere down the line, but maintained that current 3G chipsets are "power hogs." He said most of today's 3G devices have battery lives that span only 2 to 3 hours, compared to the iPhone's average 8 hours. "We've got to see the battery lives for 3G get back up into the 5+ hour range," he said. "Hopefully we'll see that late next year."
While Apple's iPhone announcement on Tuesday covered only the UK, Jobs confirmed plans to announce carrier deals in "a few" other European countries during the fourth calendar quarter of the year. Building exclusive partnerships is a timely, consuming process, he explained, and Apple met with the broader array of European carriers before deciding which avenue was best from a customer experience perspective.
"Partnerships take a lot of work —you want to go out on a few dates before you get married," said Jobs. "Yes, we dated a few people but didn't get married, and so there were a few unhappy girlfriends out there."
The Apple chief, however, would not get into detail about why O2 fit Apple's liking for the UK but not for other European countries. Similarly, he refused to comment on Apple's revenue share agreements with O2, but hinted that such agreements may actually go both ways. When asked whether Apple would share Wi-Fi iTunes Store revenues with carriers in the same way that carriers share service revenues with Apple, Jobs said, "We're not going to go into it, but if it's using the network you can conceptually imagine that it might make sense."
One of the final questions tossed Jobs' way asked what assurance UK customers have that Apple isn't going to turn around in two months and announce a dramatic iPhone price cut like it did in the US.
"I don't think that's going to happen," said Jobs, "but in technology there are no guarantees."