I read an interesting post over on InformationWeek yesterday that was talking about how Apple had re-introduced their online Inventory Tracking Tool to let consumers see where they could buy the new iPhone 3G S in North America.
The tool is updated every hour to allow potential customers to see the latest availability. Looks like most of the current shortages are across California and New York states and there seems to be shortages in Las Vegas as well, no doubt caused by the tourists making impulse purchases. From Apple’s perspective they were able to see that the most popular model was the white 16Gb version and as a consequence they are able to adjust the supplies to key stores to compensate for any potential shortages of this particular model. This is a great example of how improved visibility of consumer demand can help improve the efficiency of a supply chain and it may also go some way to explaining why Apple has once again appeared at the top of AMR’s list of Top 25 supply chains.
The iPhone 3G S has only been on the market for a few weeks but it sold nearly a million handsets in its first weekend, compared to the new Palm Pre handset which sold only 55,000 in its first weekend. RIM’s Blackberry and earlier versions of the Palm handheld have traditionally been sold to corporate or business users where as Apple’s iPhone has been sold into the general consumer market. Not to be outdone by the iPhone, newer Blackberry models have been designed to appeal to the general consumer market as well. But is there a place for the iPhone in the corporate world?, will it ever over take the Blackberry as the main mobile device used within the business community and what about the Palm and its new Pre device, will it ever return to the levels seen ten years ago when it was the handheld device of choice for many business and corporate users?
In July 2007 I wrote a blog on how the iPhone could impact the business community, but will the 3G S finally be able to deliver on this or will we have to wait for the much faster 4G version which is due at some point over the next couple of years? One of the reasons why the iPhone has been successful is its online app store, and many of these apps have featured in numerous TV adverts, the one below is relatively good at showing how the iPhone can be used from a possible B2B perspective, monitoring the shipment of goods around the world.
So will there come a time when companies will want to download supply chain or B2B related apps to their corporate iPhones to allow them to manage and interact with their supply chains, or will the growing cloud computing movement encourage the development of more cloud based applications that can be used across many users? One thing is for sure, improved speed and better global standards for mobile data exchange would probably need to be introduced before the iPhone went mainstream within global corporations.
Apple’s new 3G S is claimed to be twice as quick as the previous generation iPhone, but would this be quick enough for the corporate user who may be trying to interact with corporate systems and other applications whilst on the road? Would they be better off waiting for the next generation Apple iPhone which is rumoured to be supporting the proposed 4G mobile communications network. It is quite clear that having a high speed, highly available communications platform in place is important for many companies so perhaps many will be holding off deploying the iPhone 3G S to corporate users for the moment.
On the standards front, I wonder if we will see a new EDI document standard being developed for mobile business platforms?, this will ensure that electronic business documents can be transmitted in one common format around the world. Will we see Mobility Standard 1, being introduced in the near future? There are numerous discussions going on at the moment regarding a new common standard for cloud based computing. So I guess at some point we will see a standard being introduced for mobile platforms. Will we see Rim’s Blackberry, Palm’s Pre and Apple’s iPhone adopting some form of MS1 document standard in the future?, watch this space.