When RBC Capital Markets analyst, Mike Abramsky, speaks about Apple; it's considered all but gospel. So we will file this one under somewhere between rumor and not yet confirmed.
Abramsky is going on record that his Apple moles tell him a $99 iPhone will be hitting the market this summer sometime around June or July (Apple loves launching those iPhones about that time of year).
The $99 iPhone would be slightly stripped down, of course. You'd have to pay for a 3G upgrade and it would have less memory. However, it's not just a cheaper iPhone; it comes with a cheaper plan starting at $15 a month (as opposed to the $30 monthly plan now).
Of course, industry wags are having a field day speculating whether this would be a good thing or not. One school of thought goes that Apple is still selling off that backlog of two million extra iPhone units from December. A cheaper model would help build market share in what is still a very new smartphone niche here in the United States. The other side of the coin; would Apple be cannibalizing its own iPhone market? Keep in mind that they would now have to sell three $99 iPhones to match the sale of one unit sale now.
Okay, but all of that is Apple's problem. What does this mean for us business types?
Well, cheaper is always better. I think it would nudge smaller businesses to adopt iPhones for some or all of their staff, although without 3G that's a drag for road warriors. I can see some businesses having two tiers of iPhone users on the corporate account; the cheap version for the cubicle bound and the 3G upgrade for the folks in the field.
If it happens, I applaud Apple. I keep saying that especially in this economy it is time to cut those prices. Memo to Cupertino; now get serious about deep slashes on Macbook prices. And, I would NOT wait until summer. Do it now before Windows 7 comes out, while people are still angsting over Windows Vista. Once Windows 7 comes out, the window that will be giving you the most heartburn, Apple, will be the one you let close without grabbing as much of the PC market share while you had the chance.