I haven’t been privy to the private conversations of Steve Jobs, but listening to his keynote the other day, it’s difficult not to pick up on at least some antipathy the man seems to hold towards the entire mobile phone industry.
“Steve Jobs’ entire keynote was a series of middle fingers directed at AT&T and their carrier brethren,” says Sascha Segan, lead cell phone and PDA analyst at PC Magazine. “Notice that he dropped the iPhone’s price without mentioning AT&T; that he’s introducing the iPod Touch into Europe before the iPhone, which will depress iPhone sales there; and that he had a long chat with a Starbucks exec without once mentioning T-Mobile, who operate all of the Starbucks hotspots that he’ll be selling his music through. Never mind that the song he decided to demo on the iPod Touch was Beck’s ‘Cellphone’s Dead.’”
Perhaps he is merely sharing the frustrations of millions of Americans fed up with carrier-locked phones, draconian contracts, poor customer service, and ludicrous fees, but it would appear that, a little more than two months after bringing Apple into the cell phone game, he is already sick of it.
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“The very existence of the i-minus-phone, the Touch, is a slam at AT&T,” Segan adds. “AT&T was hoping that they’d get customers to come over from other carriers for the ability to use Apple’s radical new product. Now Apple’s offering an option for all of those Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile users, who now don’t have to switch to AT&T – they can get their Touch and keep their existing phones. The phone is the weakest part of the iPhone anyway.”
Add to the list the fact that the iPod Touch will be available in a 16-gig version while the iPhone still maxes out at 8, and I couldn’t agree with Sascha more. It’s almost like he thought: “Carriers: I hate you. Customers: Here’s the iPhone without having to deal with them, and an extra 8-gigs of memory to play with while you’re at it.”
As I said–I’m not sure what kind of backroom wheelings and dealing Jobs has had with AT&T, but I would bet money that they have been littered with frustration and tension. I would also bet that Steve has the date his exclusivity agreement with AT&T expires circled on his calendar. I think it goes without saying that he can’t wait to open up his toy to the rest of the country, not to mention the rest of the world, where customers are free to pick whatever phone they want, no matter who they choose to pay their monthly bill to. While few electronics companies are as American as Apple, perhaps Jobs’ mentality would find itself a better fit in Europe or Asia.