A US survey has concluded that while 77 per cent of mobile phone owners are aware of the Apple iPhone , only 6 per cent plan to buy one. However even that seemingly low figure could be enough to put the iPhone ahead of Windows Mobile - according to one technology pundit.

The chief reason for the low 6 per cent figure is a combination of cost and contract. The iPhone looks set to cost $500 (£250) at launch in June - that's the subsidised price with a monthly Cingular/AT&T contract.

Then there's the mobile contract itself. It appears that the Cingular/AT&T mobile network is sufficiently unpopular in the US for some consumers to try to avoid a contract with the firm.

Percentage low, sales figures high?

However 6 per cent of mobile phone users is still a pretty high figure. It's certainly more than the 4 per cent Steve Ballmer said the iPhone would get.

Plus getting just 6 per cent marketshare of the 1.6 billion phones Ballmer says are sold annually, would net Apple some pretty healthy sales numbers.

Indeed Apple is on record as saying it only wants 1 per cent global marketshare for the iPhone in its first year - 5 per cent lower than the numbers we're talking here.

iPhone a threat to Windows Mobile?

Ballmer is also spreading too much FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about the iPhone's price, according to one Mac pundit, to raise suspicions about Microsoft's self-made FUD when it comes to Apple.

The iPhone isn't meant to be either cheap or free, according to Mac pundit John Gruber of Daring Fireball . He argues that the iPhone's price and features put it on a par with smartphones, albeit a smartphone that's aimed at consumers rather than business people.

He also points out that Windows Mobile only has 6 percent of the smartphone market. This figure puts it last, behind Linux (17 per cent ) and Symbian (72 per cent) operating systems.

If the Apple iPhone does get 6 per cent of ALL mobile phone sales, that should give it a pretty big slice of the smartphone sector too. So does the iPhone pose a bigger threat to Microsoft that Ballmer would have us believe? Gruber says:

"As for Microsoft, I think there's a good chance Apple will quickly pass them in phone OS market share - say, within two years.

"Apple's in a good position here. So long as they sell enough iPhones during the first year or so that it isn't considered a flop - which seems to be a sure thing, frankly.

"Even if they remain behind Microsoft in terms of market share, Apple can say, 'Well, hey, we just got started in this market.'

"But if Apple actually draws even with Microsoft within a year or two - what's Microsoft's excuse? This is a market Microsoft has been after for a long time, going back to when Windows Mobile was marketed as Windows CE, a.k.a 'WinCE'."

"We'll see how long Steve Ballmer thinks the iPhone's price is funny."

More survey numbers

The mobile phone survey - by marketing consultancy Markitecture - says that buyer awareness is high. Its poll of 1,300 US mobile phone owners discovered that 77 per cent of people were vaguely aware of the iPhone. Not bad for a product that hasn't even launched yet

Of those who were aware 41 per cent had a good impression of the iPhone. However that figure rises to 83 per cent among people who have a very high awareness of the product.