Tonight at the D8 Conference outside of Los Angeles, Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed the iPhone’s exclusivity with AT&T in the U.S. This has been the subject of debate for three years now, and it’s getting more heated as the iPhone continues to grow in popularity. For his part, Jobs seemed fairly all over the place when talking about Apple’s relationship with AT&T. He would gush about them one second, and then take a jab at them the next.
When Walt Mossberg asked Jobs how AT&T was doing on the network side of things, Jobs at first said AT&T was doing “pretty good.” But then quickly noted that “they have some issues.” But Jobs said that the other carriers would have likely had the same issues had you put the iPhone on any one of their networks (which is a great argument for why it should be on more than one network).
Jobs then noted that AT&T was making improvements to the network, but then said he wish they were improving faster.
When asked if there would be an advantage putting the iPhone on two carriers, Jobs acknowledged that “there might be.” Asked if that would happen in the near future, Jobs said he couldn’t comment on that. But earlier Jobs noted that they meet with AT&T once a quarter, so the fact that this wasn’t a firm “no” or something implying that, is interesting — or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.
“AT&T took a big leap for us,” Jobs said in mentioning that they weren’t sure if they’d be able to break into the phone market at all when they first set out. The big question remains: was it a big enough leap to justify another year of exclusivity?
The subject of AT&T came up again later in the Q&A session. One person asked what Apple is doing to ensure you can actually make a call on their phone on AT&T’s network. Jobs said Apple was talking about it with AT&T and gave a fairly technical answer for what they’re attempting to do (involving increasing the backhaul).
Interestingly, Jobs noted that, “things get worse before they get better.” He then continued, “If you believe that, things should be getting a lot better soon!” To which the audience burst into laughter.
Jobs came back to say that he’s been told a lot of places are supposed to get better by the end of the Summer. When asked what happens if they don’t, Jobs cryptically replied, “then they won’t.”