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It’s no secret that Apple has evolved into a consumer electronics company.

The company’s evolution over to consumer products started with the letter I: the iPod, iMac, iPhone and so on. That evolution has come at the expense of channel partners, specifically by eliminating business specific products.

Although it’s getting harder and harder, several solution providers are still trying to eek out a living selling and supporting Apple’s products.

Take for example the iPhone, a product that could have become the ultimate unified communications device. The products ability to meld the Web, e-mail and phone seamlessly into a single device should have been a godsend to communications integrators. But Apple’s marketing choices made sure that it was near impossible for channel partners to build a business model around the product and Apple’s latest moves puts the final nail into the coffin of a channel friendly iPhone.

The product’s initial limitations, such as it being a closed device, having no provisions for corporate e-mail, no instant messaging capabilities and being locked to a singled service provider, were almost an impossible hurdle to overcome for most integrators, yet some found ways around those problems.

With the company’s announcement and release of a firmware update, Apple has made it clear that they want control of the iPhone. The update aims to disable the device if the unit has been unlocked for use on Networks other than AT&T and eliminates the use of third-party applications. So much for flexibility and consumer choice, and so much for the ability for solution providers to customize the iPhone for their customers.

This comes from a company that built their operating system on an open-source derivative of Unix and harangued Microsoft for years over the company’s monopolistic practices.

The real irony here is that Apple has not learned from the mistakes of others; decades ago, Lotus tried to sue competitors on look and feel of products and Microsoft engineers used to walk around with t-shirts stating “DOS isn’t done, until Lotus won’t run”. We all know where that got those companies.

The questions that beg to be answered here are: Did Apple solely design this update to eliminate flexibility with the device? or Is there some other value to this update and the flexibility problems are a byproduct? Regardless of the answers, perhaps the time has come for the channel to turn its back on Apple.

The funny thing about all of this is if Apple had turned to the channel and sold the iPhone with some flexibility and enterprise integration capabilities, the company would have made a BlackBerry/Treo killer that would have benefited everyone involved: solution providers, wireless carries, consumers and business users.