Drool-inducing? As much as it pains me to admit it… yes.

Here’s the deal: I like Apple. I always have. I’ve owned several Apple Computers (and still have two at home). I like their ideas, their products, their design, their culture of innovation, etc. But I do most of my work on a PC. My mp3 player is a Sansa instead of an iPod. Unlike most fans of Apple and owners of Apple products, I don’t necessarily drink their Koolaid. Sometimes, I get to join the fold, and sometimes, I am content to simply admire their work from afar.

BUT… this is cool. Yeah. Apple just introduced the iPhone, and let me just say this: If it also doubles as a webcam so I can use Skype’s video feature, and works with ALL major wireless carriers (like… say, Verizon) sign me up right now.

Just so Evan and Bear don’t firebomb my car for singing the praises of an Apple product, let me just say this: I couldn’t care less that Apple came up with it. It might as well have been designed by Casio or Motorola, as far as I’m concerned. The thing is that… it wasn’t. Of all the companies out there that could have been behind the designs we now know as the iMac, the iPod, the iPod Mini and now the iPhone, who else, other than Apple could have pulled it off? Why is it that Apple is one of the only companies in the world that systematically creates beautiful, smart, innovative and cool products?

What does Apple’s emphasis on innovation, user utility and style say about its culture, its hiring practices, and its view of its place in the world?

Maybe I should ask the question in another way: Why is it that no one but Apple seems to be coming out with this stuff? It isn’t for lack of talent or brainpower. They’re everywhere. So what makes Apple so different?

And what makes your company… not so different from your competitors? Not so… Apple-ish?

Food for thought.

But back to what I was saying: When it comes to Apple, I am a bit torn. I like all of their designs, but I don’t run out to buy their stuff either. This time around, as long as I don’t have to hop on over to Cingular (I love my Verizon coverage, thank you), I might have to fork over a few C-notes for the coolest thing Apple has put together in… about six months: by far the baddest phone+ I’ve seen yet.

A word of caution, Apple: Let me use the carrier of my choice, and you’ve got a deal. Force me to switch to Cingular through ill-advised Marketing Guestapo tactics, and I’ll wait for the next cool iPhone-inspired phone+ design just to spite you. Forcing people to use your own proprietary OS instead of Microsoft’s is one thing. Forcing us to go with a wireless network that offers no significant advantage over another is a completely different thing altogether. (Please don’t make that mistake. Pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease.)

Have a great day, Steve Jobs… and everyone.

And while you’re at it, check out the rest of engadget at CES. Thanks to Orange Yeti for the heads-up.