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No joke, Apple launched the iPhone yesterday, and a day later they are being sued by Cisco. No such thing as bad publicity? We’ll see.

Looking at the iPhone, the first thing that comes to mind is the XDA. Big screen, but hot on the face when being used as a phone. Look a bit closer, though, and you see the complete absence of buttons. This is a touch-based device. Multi-touch, in fact, meaning you can use simultaneous contact and gestures to give commands. As for the “hot face” issue, this new device turns off the screen when you use it close to your face for voice communications.

Nice touch. (No pun intended.)

While many people will be looking at the iPhone in terms of voice comms, video viewing, music playing etc., my main interest is in its Web browsing capability. Not surprisingly, Apple have bundled the Safari browser. This is a full browser, not a feature-limited version. It can present in landscape and portrait modes, and you can zoom in/out using pinch gestures (two points of contact approaching or receding). Pages designed for larger screens, covering most Web content that people want to access, will result in a lot of pan/zoom activity.

Consequently, content adaptation for the iPhone will be less about transcoding markup, and more about selection and layout. Content compatibility is unlikely to be much of a problem. The role of adaptation in this case would be to enhance the quality of the browsing experience.

Is enhancement necessary? Quite possibly. The iPhone is more about style than technical ability (though it is obviously quite a powerful device). The look-and-feel of a Web site will be very important. Many service providers will be looking at the iPhone as a way of attracting more users, in much the same way that music providers went into a feeding frenzy following the success of the iPod. So there will be a need to provide high-quality visual presentation and interactive experiences.

The style to be adopted for iPhone users will probably not work (as well) for non-iPhone users, including users of existing mobile Web-enabled devices and traditional PC browsers. One could create alternative stylesheets for the iPhone channel to change the graphics, colour scheme, fonts and (in some cases) the layout of page artefacts. But there’s only so far you can go with CSS. In order to adapt to the smaller form factor to avoid excessive pan/zoom one may need to split content into multiple pages, change the order in which operations are performed, change how navigation is presented and so on.

Environmental context will also play a role. For example, in the initial phase, the iPhone will be a GSM-only (quad band) device, meaning that bandwidth will be an issue. Adapting the content to use bandwidth more efficiently will be something to consider. Communications cost sensitivity could also be a factor, so bandwidth control could still be worth considering even when the iPhone goes 3G.

New product updates/releases from MobileAware will include full support for the iPhone, and in the interim it is treated as a typical smartphone mobile browser, with excellent results already.

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