We'll love the iPhone; miss the anticipation

Published January 10, 2007

iCan't believe it.

Catches breath ... wipes sweat from brow ... rubs eyes.

In the most highly anticipated Macworld Expo keynote address ever - and that's saying something considering the amount of froth and hand-wringing these things generate - Apple CEO Steve Jobs ended years of speculation by launching his company into the cell phone wars.

It's true, as real as my carpal tunnel, the result of refreshing my browser roughly 567,934 times Tuesday as all the Apple goodness was unveiled.

As far as Macworld keynotes go, there wasn't much - just the Apple TV and an iPhone, and not even a "One Last Thing" from Jobs.

But that's like saying Beyonce showed up at your house for dinner, but left the rest of Destiny's Child at home.

In all its overhyped, touch-screen, music- and video-playing, picture-showing, conference call-making glory, the iPhone finally arrived, sending Apple's stock prices up $7 a share. The iPhone will be available in June.

A collective cheer could be heard across Apple Nation, followed by a collective groan when the price was revealed: $499 (for the 4G) and $599 (8G) with a 2-year contract from Cingular (another groan, for many).

Nothing ever comes cheap from Apple. But like seemingly every Apple product, it sure comes sexy. So much so it made you forget the price, the carrier and potential issues with the screen (see scratches, iPod).

And so ends an era, and one of the most spectacular Internet debates and hobbies for the rumormongers.

What will the legion of Apple users do now, with no rumors to spread, no photo-shopped mock-ups to pass around and no patent filings to pour over?

Love the phone; will miss wondering if it's coming.

For years, since the return of Jobs to Apple, many users had pined for the return of the ill-fated but still-revered Newton, a PDA that never found an audience. In 2002, one fan site showed video of a purported iWalk, toasting message boards but leaving many gadget geeks disappointed when it never materialized.

Ever since, the anticipation has built, hurried along by the ultra-successful iPod.

The past week, the obsession over the iPhone set new standards. Were Prudential Equity Group analyst Jesse Tortora, Rebecca Runkle of Morgan Stanley, Digg founder Kevin Rose (he predicted the iPod nano last year) and dozens of others correct? Even Matt Drudge got into the act, posting a story saying the phone was imminent.

But for every Drudge report, there was a headline like the one Monday night at redherring.com: "iPhone Gets Macworld Hang-Up."

That article quoted two analysts saying no phone and stated, correctly, mind you, that Apple had not received approval from the FCC for a phone.

But Jobs, the secretive fox eager for a big splash, decided to save FCC approval for later, presumably to avoid having his grand plans leaked while going through the process.

The iPhone leaves a huge void in the land of Apple rumors. Maybe it will be filled by those disappointed about a lack of updates to OS X (Leopard) or iWork, or a new video iPod or new Macbooks.

Most of us, though, will be moving on and counting down to June, as the mystery has finally been solved.

John C. Cotey can be reached at (727)869-6261 or cotey@sptimes.com.