AT&T isn’t losing its monopoly over Apple’s iPhone

AT&T Logo

AT&T Logo

Looking at the comments of any major tech blog, and many a mainstream newspaper website one would think that as soon as Apple’s exclusivity contract with AT&T runs out (thought to be in 2010 sometime), the California-based computer firm will leave the mobile network behind. I would be wary of over-speculating about AT&T being in a headlock from an Apple tough-guy position. I think the danger to AT&T of losing exclusivity has been exagerated by some commentators.

Take the following example Megan Lavey’s position in a recent TUAW post:

AT&T has long been the subject of grumbling from the community of US iPhone users who want to use their phones legitimately. Ever since the original release back in 2007, it feels like AT&T has been trying to play catch-up when it comes to service and tower availability. But, the release of the iPhone 3G S might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The ramifications for AT&T will come when it sits down at the negotiation table with Apple to extend its current gig as exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States. Apple won’t forget that AT&T didn’t have key features in place when they needed to be there. If Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or any other carrier can convince Apple that they would be ahead of the game while AT&T lags (and, believe me, it wouldn’t be that hard of an argument to make), Apple will take its toys and go elsewhere.

I don’t think this is going to happen, and here’s why. Just by chance I watched Steve Jobs’s interview with Walt Mossberg at 2007′s All Things D (D5) Conference, and I was struck by the sense of loyalty that Jobs expressed when referring to how Cingular took a risk on Apple in accepting the iPhone to their network while Verizon (we hear) wouldn’t give them access. The quote arrives just before the two minute mark:

“I think Cingular invested in us, they took a gamble on us, and likewise we took a gamble on them. So, I will never forget that.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the Wall Street Journal and Walt Mossberg’s ‘D’ Conference in 2007

AT&T, at the time called Cingular, may not be the strongest network, but as CEO Randall Stephenson mentioned in this year’s D Conference, the top complaint for all mobile phone networks in the US is signal; it’s not unique to Cingular. There’s no saying there will be any less of a mob decrying Verizon signal strengths were Apple to release an iPhone CDMA version. I imagine Apple could likely keep a level of pragmatism and institutional memory in its decision making process – it wants the best business result but it also wants a carrier in the US that it can actually deal with, and back in 2007 (let alone 2004 when they started working on the iPhone), Verizon was so locked up in their own software packages, network restrictions and carrier lock-ins, I can’t imagine how a pairing of such companies would have worked.  The cultures are, ironically, too similar; both Apple and Verizon want to have full control over their ‘product’ and thus a melding of minds just wouldn’t have worked at the time.

This is not to say that there is no possibility of Apple adopting Verizon as a partner, but I think the importance of institutional memory and personal relationships is incredibly within Apple, evidenced by the number of times that key employees have been hired and rehired again after any attempts to jump ship, taking people like Jon Rubinstein and Craig Federighi as obvious examples.  Who knows whether Verizon will care about Apple’s products once they’ve got them. For the moment the iPhone is AT&T’s golden egg and thus they work to retain it. Once it’s gone how will that relationship with Apple play out? Will AT&T remain accommodating? Verizon might be added as a carrier, but it won’t be without considerable fight and, I’m guessing, significant anguish.

Popularity: 6% [?]

GAY=SIN video by Matthew Brown

GAY = SIN from Matthew Brown on Vimeo.
Matthew Brown has made a video which he shares on Vimeo, looking at how some people are so thoroughly opposed to the ‘gay lifestyle’ – which I interpret simply as opposition to the fact that gay people exist – that they feel compelled to share their distain for others in a as public a forum as is possible. He overlays critical audio over images captured of friends sharing special times together. The sounds so awfully contrast with the clement, benign and thoroughly gregarious nature of the images portrayed – pictures that could not be further from the audio that accompanies them. The result is artistic and thought provoking, as well as not just a little bit beautiful.
Check out the video link for an High Definition version which, through its clarity, renders the images yet more poignant and meaningfull.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Moral Outrage? It’s there, and it’s justified.

Reading an opinion piece in Wednesday’s WSJ: Our Selective Moral Outrage - Why does Israel face more opprobrium than Russia?‘. I am continually disappointed with Israel’s wartime violence and lack of cultural nous, (displayed in the  UN report reporting on Israeli solders making Palestinian children before them as human shields Haaretz: IDF troops used 11-year-old boy as human shield in Gaza), that I tend to react negatively when those in the US based media try to explain away or shame away critics. I’d be very interested to hear from those who think I’m wrong.

Why greater censure; because Israel has higher relative wealth than Russia and in other contexts acts in an intelligent and rational way. How can we explain away Israel’s bad behaviour as though it doesn’t have other options? Melanie Phillips in The Spectator writes today of the west’s ‘pathological obsession’ with Israel, ‘Selective Moral Outrage‘. The thing is, when we discussing a state that is financially propped up by the US, one should hold them to a higher standard. It’s delusional and insulting to claim that all opposition to the actions Israel takes militarily is anti-semitic, as Bret Stephens implies: ‘As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia’.  Russia is no Israel and visa versa. This but what about argument just doesn’t hold water. As Johann Hari recently wrote in his article in The Independent – ‘How to spot a lame, lame argument‘: There is one particular type of bad argument that has always existed, but it has now spread like tar over the world-wide web, and is seeping into the pubs, coffee shops and opinion columns everywhere. It is known as ‘what-aboutery’ – and there was a particularly ripe example of it in response to one of my articles last week.

As a rhetorical trick, it is simple. Anyone can do it, and we are all tempted sometimes. When you have lost an argument – when you can’t justify your case, and it is crumbling in your hands – you snap back: “But what about x?” You then raise a totally different subject, and try to get everybody to focus on it – hoping it will distract attention from your own deflated case.

Can we back away from the distraction of comparing Israel/Palestine to everywhere else in the world and concentrate on fixing what is clearly going wrong with that conflict itself. Middle-Eastern peace won’t come because one day everyone realises what Russia does in Chechnya is worse, but rather when all sides are honest about they can, could and should do to end conflict and bring about a harmonious life for all. I still think this is possible, though the mindset and honesty from all parties required is some ways off.

Plus, basing an article on numbers of hits from a Google search is elementary-school level journalism.

Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal – Our Selective Moral Outrage – Why does Israel face more opprobrium than Russia?

Popularity: 5% [?]

NUS Conference Speeches

A certain popular road-warrior, Wes Streeting, on the way to being elected NUS National President. I wish I’d had a chance to meet him. Perhaps in the future. This speech doesn’t seem as impressive as it was at the time. In the hall as he was speaking there was a buzz of energy and of possibility. It’s very easy to sound angry on the podium, but to be angry with a passion and with direction is what’s powerful. Wes, for one, certainly has that power. I couldn’t be more pleased that he was elected.


Absolute comedy pisstake joy at the NUS conference. Ross Stanley is someone to watch out for, he made a number of coherent contributions during the course of the three days and came across well in all of them. Then he came out with this at the end of day two, showing one CAN do politics with a sense of humour.

Popularity: 5% [?]