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What Will A Post-iPhone World at Apple Look Like?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Last week, well-known Apple (AAPL) analyst Gene Munster appeared at the Business Insider Ignition conference. During his talk, he talked about the future product roadmap for Apple.

The Apple bears like to portray that all innovative projects ceased to exist the day that Steve Jobs died. Munster painted a very different picture. He talked about projects such as 3D printing and robotic applications, similar to the Google (GOOG) driverless car, that Apple is working on. He also speculated that Apple would have its own "glasses" type of product.

The glasses idea is certainly backed up by some patent filings that Apple has made recently.

Although he didn't say it explicitly, Munster is really talking about a post-iPhone world at Apple.

He's not the only Apple watcher to recently discuss this.

Noted Apple blogger and analyst Horace Dediu speculated a couple of weeks ago that he didn't expect there to be a new iPhone in a few years from now and that Apple was already preparing for that possibility.

Just last week, Horace hosted a podcast with fellow Apple watcher Benedict Evans where they talked about Apple's strategy with the iPhone. It's part of the Critical Path 5 x 5 podcast series and you should try to listen to it if you get the opportunity.

They discussed how Apple has taken a deliberate approach with the iPhone since its 2007 launch to maximize its profit from the device at the expense of greater market share. That's why Apple has stuck to its unsubsidized price for the iPhone of $650. Carriers have been willing to play ball with Apple and heavily subsidize the cost of the handset in order to get new subscribers on to their plans for a given number of years.

Dediu and Evans contrast this approach with the one that Google has taken with Android, which is simply low cost and grab as much market share as possible.

They note in their discussion how this approach has led to taking the very low end of the market -- the folks who simply used to use "candy bar" Nokia (NOK) phones -- who simply want to make phone calls and nothing else.

This is why Apple's mobile web-browsing stats are enormously higher -- 90+% market share -- compared to Android's even though Android dominates the total market share stats.

The question is why hasn't Apple chosen to go into the low end of the market. Dediu says he expected in 2008, just after the introduction of the iPhone, that Apple would come out with something like the Nano iPhone to appeal to the low end of the market. It hasn't.

Maybe it's because Apple isn't sure how it would differentiate such a phone from its existing high-end phone. With an iPod, the higher-end version had more memory. It's not so obvious what you would do with a low-end phone and the high-end version with iPhone, although the analysts speculate a low-end version could have no apps and just be geared towards calling and texting.

What's certain is that Apple is eventually going to have to cross this bridge when it gets into emerging markets like India, China and other parts of the world. These places are going to demand a lower-cost iPhone.

Interestingly, such a move into that market could signal the beginning of the end for the iPhone as we know it. As Dediu remarked in a recent tweet, in five years the iPhone will be on version 7. It won't be time for iPhone version 23 but perhaps a completely new post-phone product.

Dediu speculates in his podcast that it could be a Siri-only version of the iPhone. Another approach would be the glasses concept where you walk around with Siri to interact with you via voice and a display -- when it was safe to show you -- on your glasses.

In such a world, touch would be as passe as the joystick is to gamers today, according to Dediu.

It's difficult to fully wrap your brain around these kinds of concepts and what the pricing model would like for them.

However, it's important to realize that Apple is not just going to keep iterating on the products of today. It is already hard at work at coming up with the next version of products that will disrupt the mother lode-winning products of today.

Apple has a history of doing so.

At the time of publication the author had a position in AAPL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Stock quotes in this article: AAPL, GOOG, NOK 
Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at eric.jackson@thestreet.com.

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