SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O) affirmed on Wednesday its iPhone sales goal for this year and said it will give details next week of how outside programmers can create software for its iPhone, a move expected to spur demand for the multifunction device.
Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, speaking at a Goldman Sachs investment conference, said he had “really good confidence” the company could hit its oft-stated goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of the year.
Apple shares rose 3.7 percent in extended trading, building on a 3.2 percent increase to $122.96 in the regular Nasdaq session. The stock has fallen 30 percent in the past three months on concerns a slowing economy could hit sales of its Mac computers, iPods and iPhones.
Apple also said it will unveil new iPhone features aimed at businesses, potentially stepping up competition with Research In Motion Ltd’s RIM.TO popular Blackberry devices.
Apple will detail the software road map for the iPhone on March 6 at its Cupertino, California headquarters, the company said in an invitation sent to reporters.
When Apple launched the iPhone last June, it only allowed outside software developers to make Web-based programs, not ones that could be installed and run on the device itself.
The policy sparked an outcry among developers, who quickly found ways to crack Apple’s restrictions and offer unauthorized programs. Within months, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs backtracked and promised to open the phone up to outside software.
“Apple has understood the importance of local applications and they are responding to that, and it will help them sell more iPhones,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst of Creative Strategies.
“It should release a plethora of creative applications and it will make the iPhone much more practical as a mobile applications tool,” Bajarin said.
Analysts have expressed concern in recent weeks over iPhone sales and the practice of “unlocking” them to run on networks other than that of AT&T Inc (T.N), the exclusive U.S. carrier.
Bernstein Research last month estimated that more than a quarter of iPhones were “unlocked,” pressuring Apple’s business model since the company does not collect a portion of carrier fees from those users.
Cracking down on unlocked phones could scare some users away and cause Apple to miss its sales target for the device, whereas allowing them could erode profitability and make it tough to sign more carriers to similar revenue-sharing deals, Bernstein said.
Apple also gave no hint of what enterprise features would be unveiled, but many professional users have clamored for “push e-mail” that sends full messages from a corporate mail network to the phone.
That is how Research In Motion’s Blackberry devices work, but iPhone users must manually pull the messages down from their accounts.
“Apple has acknowledged that there has been great interest in the enterprise community for the iPhone,” Bajarin said. “There’s no question it has great potential in enterprise given the right application.”
Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles, Editing by Brian Moss/Andre Grenon