iPhone 3G- brought to you by Microsoft


Windows_ce_logoThings have settled down now since my trek to the Apple store in the late afternoon yesterday to see if they had any iPhone 3Gs left in stock.  They did and I picked up a black 16 GB unit and it’s now properly synced up and charging as we speak.  The line wasn’t too bad although it moved a lot slower than the Apple folks said it should when I first got there but I was in line with a video journalist from the local CBS affiliate (hi Keith) and it was quite enjoyable, at least as far as waiting in line goes.

The most interesting part of the entire purchase process was seeing the role that Microsoft played in every single iPhone purchase at the Apple store.  You see, Apple doesn’t use cash registers or even Macs for the purchase process.  No, they use handheld wireless devices made by Symbol, maker of such things, and every single one of them is running the Windows CE operating system.  That’s right, Apple had to turn to Microsoft for a point-of-sale (POS) solution solid enough to work under such volume sales situations.  These Symbol devices used barcode scanning to input each iPhone’s serial number and other information, used a credit card scanner to accept customer payment, and tapped a wireless connection to not only the Apple store’s network but to the AT&T network to activate the new service for the customer.  They handled the mad crowd with ease and even kept working when the Apple store power flickered once.  Talk about ironic.



apples & oranges (ha!)
No competition.
.. And anyway who cares when the ratio of iPhone:WindowsCe store devices is so high. I only read this because I was wondering if the iPhone had a licensed WindowCe in it (see Mac bus, O/S, processor, serial i/o .. trend ).

This kind of article shows the level of some Apple nuts’ corporate loyality (to marketing?) in buying a phone. It would not hurt to look at the product itself rather then the name so that we consumers get better products instead of brand name bragging rights. Let’s hope that the recent waves of excitement do not collapse completely but instead force the company to innovate (the product).

If Guy Kawasaki is still alive he is in the corner crying – 1980’s are over – fads hit hard and die fast except for the few straggler evangelists.

Is Microsoft even allowed to make a phone?
Is Apple too geeky to make a game console, heck, why can’t the Mac do games or even web games (swf)?

Dave Parks

You mean to say that a company that doesn’t develop POSS software actually used a competitor’s product?!
What can we expect to see next?
MacOS running on the same hardware as Windows?!
A Two button mouse?!

C’mon, cut me some slack. Welcome to 2008.
It’s a competing OS, not holy scripture.


Not even an Apple guy at all (don’t own any of their products), but I’m not sure what the big deal is here. Do you really think they’d use a new product (iPhone 3g) to process transactions for the very same product? Do you think anyone plans on using a smart phone as a POS device? So if not the iPhone, what do you expect them to use? The iPod Touch? Once again… not exactly a POS device. Apple has never claimed to be a one-stop shop for every IT need in the world…


Exactly — I second Martin. If anything, it’s another jab at Microsoft: “Thanks for the point-of-sale software, Microsoft! Without it, we simply wouldn’t know *how* to deal with all these sales….”

Jerome Hughes

18 years ago programmed IBM S/38 and AS/400 machines for Apple back-end business processing

these are the same machines which were also used by Microsoft (and then hidden for years – you can only work on ’em under non-disclosure) to track shipments of their products

while both companies may have moved on since, the IBM i platform lives on, for good reason, and services your transactions way more often than you know

and don’t kid yourself…

when it comes to processing huge lucrative business transactions, you’re probably not going to do it with brand new consumer technology

watch and see where it goes, and for a little foreshadowing which might help with connecting some dots… check out Steve Gillmor’s prescient post “The Enterprise iPhone Twitter Connection” at


Craig Ferry

Yes, yes, very amusing. Does anyone seriously suggest that Apple should waste time developing a custom hardware and software solution to make a few thousand POS terminals for its 187 stores? As a shareholder, I’m perfectly happy to see them buy a turnkey solution for POS and get on with the business of developing their next multi-million selling consumer product.
On the other hand, I don’t suppose it is beyond the realm of possibility that Apple might one day license it’s mobile version of OS X to developers who want to create niche market products like this.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt

I’m not sure the role Microsoft played in the iPhone 3G launch is anything to brag about, if my experience is typical. The Apple staffers handling my transaction went through four different hand-held scanners before they finally completed my purchase. The first couldn’t read my credit card. When the second got hung up and my teal-colored assistant asked to replace it, he was told by his supervisor that everybody was having the same problem.


The guy just used the words “rock solid” and “microsoft” in the same sentence!


Well, a few years I remember visiting a Microsoft booth at some computer show (CES?) and what did they use to scan my badge? A Handspring device with PalmOS software. A year or so later I observed the same at a Nokia booth.

Mike Cane

>>>Thanks to the folk in the store for putting up with me, and I hope no one gets into trouble for allowing Vista on the premises.

Ha! I’ve sat in the Soho store using — at that time — the cursed 770. *On AC*! (It has an upstairs theater and each seat has an outlet.)

That store — don’t know if this is still happening — had this woman who’d show up with a Windows laptop and sit for hours and hours and hours sucking on the free WiFi. EVERY DAY! Never asked to leave. But the Apple Cultists would exchange looks and also leave snarky posts I’ve seen around about her.

Dave Nicholls

For one Apple store that wasn’t the only Microsoft action going on. I’m from the UK, but I was working in Denver this week. Having tried and failed to get my Touch upgraded to 2.0 before I checked out of my hotel yesterday I decided to have one more try before heading to the airport. I was in the Park Meadows mall so I sat down on a couch outside the Apple store and connected to the free wifi. When I connected my Touch I found that it had corrupted and everything was gone. By this time my laptop battery was running low and I was facing an 8 hour flight with no music so I wandered in to the Apple store and, to their credit, no one turned a hair when I asked if I could plug in to their power and re-sync. I spent about two hours in the store with my Lenovo X61 Tablet and Touch sitting on a display counter next to a Mac Pro while I restored everything. I did get a few people come over to see the new ‘mac tablet’, which was very amusing. Thanks to the folk in the store for putting up with me, and I hope no one gets into trouble for allowing Vista on the premises.

Allan Pedersen

Yes sure when anybody need something rock soiid that can integrate to someting usefull by one a music player they turn to Microsoft. Apple cant use the crap them self i wundor what people sees in these iphones.


LOL, once again Microsoft to the rescue– in this case with Exchange support and WinCE POS handsets. Nice.

Seriously though, I setup 4 iPhones at work yesterday to work on our Exchange server, and I’m not going to lie– it went really smoothly. The hardest/most annoying part was typing our absurdly long domain name (I still don’t like on-screen keyboards), but the detection went really well and the sync was really quick and easy. Plus, the Exchange team did a great job documenting how to track the iPhone users from the server side.

Most importantly, I made 4 people laugh at the fact that I was willing to touch an Apple product sans rubber gloves (a joke I have with them) and not immediately wash my hands in acid! :)


Very cool post, not just about the iphone but about business in general. Many idiot business executives and mindless consumers who watch entirely too many reality tv game shows like to say that “this one” is a “that one killer”. In reality, perceived competitors are usually cooperating agents in serving the ultimate needs of the larger evolving market. There’s a reason why there are so few true monopolies in the world, and the truth is that, despite the potential financial rewards, neither apple nor microsoft would like to have to be the only technology show in town having to keep every technology need satisfied.

I know that many people have grumbled here and elsewhere about James picking up an iphone, but if you keep your head on straight and keep posting like this then you might just make it out of the ifad with some loyal readership in tact.


I noticed the same thing yesterday, even chatted with the apple store employee about that slice of irony… Wonder if an in house iPhone app is under foot (maybe delicious monster technology for barcode camera reading)?

Comments are closed.