Wednesday, September 27, 2006

ThinkSecret ( spills a rumor that the inevitable iPod Phone will be exclusive to Cingular for six months. Commentators jump on it with their gut reactions. Mass chaos ensues.

That was the situation yesterday, and I doubt it's much better to day. Love 'em or hate 'em, Apple stirs a lot of emotion. And emotion unfortunately is not driven by intellect. So let's stop for a minute and think about the advantages of a single carrier initial offering of the iPod Phone.

First, a phone would not simply be a new product for Apple; it would propel them into an industry where they have no experience. Assmuing the iPod Phone will do more than just phone calls, there will be connectivity and compatibility issues. By limiting the initial launch to just one carrier, they would eliminate a major variable in the early troubleshooting process, which should make it easier to perfect the system before expanding to other carriers and dealing with issues specific to their networks. Apple prides itself on making products that "just work". A measured rollout will help maintain that reputation.

Second, Apple doesn't care about selling phone service. Their only interest in phone service will be to make their iPod Phone usable. They'll offer the phone on their website and in the Apple Store, offer some service plan options, and in a couple days or right out of the door, you'll be able to call people from your slick music phone. The average consumer shops for style and features. Carrier doesn't matter as long as they can support the product. Besides, it'll be tough enough for these Apple Store guys to deal with learning and explaining one carrier's options in the early rush. Why multiply that?

Third, isn't an exclusive carrier initial rollout in line with Apple's usual approach? I seem to recall the iPod, being an extension of iTunes, was initially only Mac-compatible, making it exclusive to perhaps 5% of the computer user market for more than a year. They expanded it to Windows users in 2003 and now command 75% of the U.S. MP3 player market. Contrast that against six months exclusivity with a carrier that holds significant market share. That's a considerable step forward by any measure.

Fourth, we don't even know what this mythical phone may or may not do or if any other carriers are interested. Does Verizon want people to download music from iTunes instead of V-Cast? If it has 3G but not wifi, why would T-Mobile want it? Sprint Nextel might be an option, but would their support outweigh the possible benefits of this alleged exclusive deal? It is impossible to judge and that's sort of my point regarding all this iPhone speculation. I'm all for people posting opinions and commentary, but how smart is it to judge a book by its cover when you haven't even seen the cover?

Disclosure: I own one share of stock in Apple, my wife owns an iPod, and we both use iTunes.

CateGoogles: mobile_tech
Mood = skeptical

iPhone rumor sparks crazed commentary


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