Apple Inc.'s latest gadget, the iPhone, is seeing a consumer and media frenzy in the days leading up to its release, and, for the most part, is receiving positive responses from Hispanic companies across the nation.
The long-awaited cell-phone-as-handheld-computer is being released Friday at various AT&T and Apple retail locations throughout the United States.
"I am always in touch with all my offices 24/7 ... it is no longer necessary to be physically at my office to handle normal operations," said Patricia Pliego Stout, president of San Antonio, Texas-based Alamo Travel Group, ranked No. 88 on the Hispanic Business 500. She is planning on replacing her BlackBerry, a Research In Motion product, with an iPhone. "We are very excited about this new electronic convenience."
Although Apple's main target is the young consumer, businesses and their employees are also looking forward to using the iPhone, although some are looking at it with more caution.
Miami-based LatiNode, a telecommunications services provider that ranked No. 51 on this year's Hispanic Business 500, is also welcoming the new technology. CEO Jorge Granados sees it having an impact on both the consumer and business world and is "definitely thinking of having one."
"LatiNode believes we'll see the impact of the iPhone more in the consumer side, but it can definitely increase the usage of video and graphic content to be applied in the business environment," Mr. Granados explained.
"We can see more and more Hispanic ad, media or content managers using it as a tool to deliver presentations or share information about their business with customers and colleagues. This is the first version of the iPhone, but I'm sure this is the new generation for a new way of mobile communication."
The iPhone offers users not only a phone that has eight hours of talking time – as compared to the BlackBerry's four hours – but also a multimedia player, a 2-megapixel camera with a photo management application and Internet services that include wireless connectivity.
Its iPod feature includes password protection, shuffle and repeat modes, ratings, audiobooks, audiobook speed control, podcasts, SoundCheck, equalization, volume limiter and on-the-go playlists.
Its visual voicemail feature allows users to choose which messages they want to listen to by using the touchscreen.
The iPhone's Internet service allows users to check their email, surf the web, view maps, find driving directions and watch YouTube videos.
Basically, it's every technological gadget a person wants all wrapped up into one scratch-resistant touchscreen, $499 to $599 phone. Of course, this is Apple's first shot at the iPhone, so new features will most likely be added in future generations of the phone.
LatiNode is considering deploying a new application for the iPhone so that it will be compatible with its business.
Some companies, on the other hand, are approaching the iPhone cautiously.
"It is an outstanding device for personal use," said James Jardon II, president and CEO of Jardon & Howard Technologies Inc., a company ranked No. 55 on the Hispanic Business 500. "For small businesses, it could be the device of choice. It could be a cost-effective means of 'being connected' if offered at a manageable price point. If an enterprise has invested in a mobile computing platform, larger businesses would need to analyze the cost of adopting the new technology versus the benefit of doing so."
For Jardon & Howard Technologies, a training program support company, this means that the switch to the iPhone is not an immediate necessity.
"We have no current plans to switch the enterprise to the iPhone platform, not only because of our investment in the BlackBerry platform, but also the lack of an interface to our current mail and mobile computing services," he explained.
Other companies voiced the same reasons for not making the switch, marking Apple's potential struggle with the business community. Because many companies have already configured their corporate e-mail servers to work with the BlackBerry device, many are not willing to compromise the company's security to work with the iPhone.
A report issued by market research company Gartner Inc. urges businesses not to support the iPhone "on the basis that the device cannot be fully secured and managed."
"[Information technology] organizations should refuse to support the iPhone at this time," the report explained, as quoted in a Computerworld.com article. "If for political reasons this is not an option, then the iPhone should be placed under the concierge support level ... meaning that support will be granted as an exception, with the associated costs for support covered by a monthly billing to pay for the dedicated support staff uniquely trained for this device."
The research report also considered business obstacles such as lack of support of the iPhone from major mobile management and mobile security software programs as well as from major business e-mail systems. It also considered the availability from only one U.S. operator (AT&T) and the high price when compared with other similar devices on the market.
While it does present some obstacles, the iPhone opens new doors for consumers and businesses that are looking to expand their means of communication.
"I think that what we need to support is the concept of connecting people and communities around the world. At LatiNode, we have the commitment through our communication services to offer many opportunities of how to connect with others," Mr. Granados said. "The telecommunication business is dramatically changing the way of doing business. Nowadays, the key factor is 'joining communities around the globe' in the easiest way possible."
Amid the iPhone release frenzy, shares of Apple's stock have soared in 2007. It closed at $83.80 on Jan. 3 but reached a 52-week high of $127.61 during intraday trading on June 7. The stock closed Wednesday at $121.89.
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