Coming Soon: Free iPhone

The Internet was around for a long time the day before Netscape 1.0 was released.  But things sure were different after that day.  The day Oingo was bought by Google probably wasn’t terribly significant to anyone (excluding Oingo investers, of course).  However, the subsequent rollout of AdSense has helped to pour fuel on the Web 2.0 fire. 

The history of the Internet is littered with these milestones, little seemingly insignificant moments that became the catalyst for entirely new ways to do business.  Looking out over the next 18 months, I’m sensing another big milestone on the horizon – the free iPhone.  Of course it wouldn’t be a completely free version of today’s iPhone, it would be a lower-end version subsidized by AT&T and possibly even some ad-based revenue recovery model.  In fact, it may not even be Apple’s version of this device and instead be something like an Android-based iClone

Whenever this event happens, it’s only a matter of time before these devices will explode out of the early adopt-o-sphere and become a ubiquitous part of the general population’s life.  Once this platform has mass adoption, suddenly it will become possible to deliver compelling software experiences to mobile users.  Think mobile social networks that 20% of your city is actively participating in.  Think GPS-enabled contextual search and user reviews for 90% of the businesses within 5 miles of your current location.  Think mMMOGs (mobile MMOGs) so large that 3-4 people on each subway car or bus are playing. 

The opportunities here are immense – large enough that in the next two years, I find it very hard to believe that one of the major technology + mobile players wouldn’t make a bet in this area to kickstart this market into a place where the network effect can take hold and create one massively profitable platform.  I, for one, will be first in line for the handout.    

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