iPhone season? Or open season on the iPhone?

The iPhone really isn't all that compelling, until you try one

Well, it's the moment of truth for this year's holiday shopping season: iPhone, yes or no? Tracy Mayor put the Question of the Year to Computerworld Editor in Chief Scot Finnie, PC World Editor in Chief Harry McCracken, Computerworld Online News Editor Ken Mingis and NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin. The panel was tied -- two said yes, and two said no, so Tracy turned to me to break the tie.

The iPhone really isn't all that compelling, until you try one. Scot Finnie made that mistake and now he's hooked.

Though "iPhone Killers" abound, there really is only one competitor to the iPhone: The next iPhone. Will Apple ship iPhone 2.0 soon, or not until 2009 or later? That's the main criteria for jumping on board now or waiting, at least for many would-be Scot Finnies. Well, the Grinch came early this year in the form of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who let slip this week that, in fact, a superfast 3G version of the iPhone would ship in 2008 (my guess is June). When asked how much it might cost, Stephenson replied that Apple CEO Steve Jobs "will dictate what the price of the phone is." Uh, huh. My question to Stephenson is: Isn't Steve Jobs supposed to dictate when new products are announced, too?

In any event, iPhone fever is slowly spreading across the globe like SARS. And many are grumbling. The Canadians, for example, are feeling like unwanted stepchildren as Americans gloat about their iPhones and launch dates are announced across Europe. The likely ship date in Canada is rumored to be Jan. 18, too late for the holidays. Meanwhile, the British have had their iPhones for three weeks, and some there are complaining both about the high price of the phone and also about spotty reception.

Nobody's complaining in France this week, however. The iPhone launch in that country took place last night spectacularly on the Champs-Elysees, complete with long lines and thrilled buyers.

Whether you buy one this holiday season or not, there's no denying that the iPhone is an iconic, game-changing device on par at least with the original Mac. Transforming the cell phone business is just one reason that Jobs was named this week by Fortune Magazine as this year's "Most Powerful Person In Business" (the other four businesses he transformed are the computer, movie/TV, music and retailing).

New Google Maps: GPS (without the GPS)

The brand-new beta of Google's Maps Mobile application unveiled yesterday looks and feels like the previous version, with one spectacular new trick: When you press zero on your phone's keypad, a blue dot shows up on the map representing an estimate of your location, no GPS required. It works on just about any phone.

Google performs this neat trick -- called My Location -- by learning which cell towers your phone is using, then guessing your location. It's not super accurate, but it does make it more convenient to use Maps on your phone and, unlike GPS, works indoors.

The new maps version, which can be downloaded free at www.google.com/gmm or by texting the word "BLUEDOT" to 33669.

Who says iPhone isn't ready for business?

The iPhone just got more business-friendly thanks to -- are you sitting down? -- Microsoft! When it ships in January, the new Office 2008 for Mac will let users port PowerPoint presentations to iPhones and video-equipped iPods.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Computerworld

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