Apple appears to be the real winner of the new partnership announced earlier today between France-Telecom owned mobile phone network Orange and the Californian company.
The new deal is likely to spawn a number of fundamental questions over the way Apple does business with its existing partners and is likely to change the way it forges new alliances in strategic territories.
The company now knows that it can no longer afford the element of surprise; the iPhone has been on the market for more than two years now and since then, all of the features of Apple's iconic device have been copied/replicated.
From the accelerometer to the 3.5-inch screen, the form factor and the capacitive display (ed: although many of these features were available before, Apple was the one to bring them together and improve on them significantly).
The only thing remaining is the App store which is by far the best such application solution available on any mobile or desktop platform.
Apple is therefore in a position where it must run faster than the competition, not only to hit targets and make investors happy, but also to prevent its rivals from placing their smartphones before it can do so.
Which is why the iPhone is no longer exclusive in France and the UK where competition appears to be the most ferocious with a glut of iPhone-esque smartphones likely to launch before Christmas.
It is also very likely that (a) other territories like the US will soon lose the exclusivity - AT&T beware! (b) other networks like Vodafone and 3 Networks in the UK might get their own iPhones. After all, why limit yourself to one network when you can get all four (or five if you count Virgin Media).
It also throws in another possibility especially when you consider that both the iPhone 3G and the 3GS are included in the Orange deal; over the next 12 months, Apple might launch other iPhones and we believe that memory capacity and colour are not going to be the only things altered.
A 16GB iPhone 3GS unlocked costs as little as £599.99 at Play.com and is widely available online through at least ten popular e-tailers. So even if you can't get your hands on the real thing from your network, you can always get it unlocked.