A&TT’s CEO remarked yesterday that a 3G iPhone was coming “next year”. And in doing so, he set off a minor tsunami across the technology news waterfront.
Many simply quoted Randall Stephenson’s remarks in the original Bloomberg story, though some, like Connecting the Dots, decided to improve on the rumor by saying that “a faster 3G iPhone is coming in early 2008.”
Thus setting things up nicely for the article’s title, “AT&T CEO becomes the Grinch that stole the iPhone Christmas.”
A Gartner analyst then jumped on the bandwagon, stating “‘One big complaint about the iPhone is the network. Now Stephenson’s said they’re going to have a higher-speed network next year. People are going to wait.”
Today, Robert X. Cringely took things to the next level, indicating that the leak was a deliberate shot across Apple’s bow, indicating their displeasure at Apple’s potential involvement with Google in the upcoming 700-MHz wireless spectrum auction.
Of the three, I’d say that Cringely at least gave things a little thought.
So who’s sitting on the fence?
First, AT&T’s CEO didn’t say “early next year”. He said, and I quote, that “You’ll have it next year.” A rather significant difference, don’t you think?
As I said in 3G iPhones Definitely Coming Says AT&T, “next year” could just as easily mean late November as early March.
Further, the fact that a 3G phone is coming isn’t even a secret, Steve’s already said as much. Everyone is expecting one.
The real question is when?
But “next year”? Come on, that’s simply too nebulous for most people. Heck, I bought one in June, knowing full well that Apple could easily introduce a newer version in November. I’d even figured out who’d get the old one if it happened.
And despite the “minor tsunami across the technology news waterfront”, I also think the analysts are overestimating just how much the public follows the off-hand comments of a CEO at a luncheon. Even if the hoopla hits page four of the NY Times, I expect the average conversation to go as follows:
“George, that iPhone thing you wanted for Christmas? Says here that there could be a new version next year sometime. Do you want to wait?”
George looks at her from over the sports page, “Anything more specific than next year?” When his wife replies in the negative, George resumes reading. “Nah, I kind of want one. Besides, if they come out with a new one you can get it for me next year.”
A deliberate shot across the bow?
Robert X. Cringely, on the other hand, doesn’t think Stephenson’s statement was an accident. Instead, “he was sending a $1 billion message to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.”
Quoting further, “What I believe is troubling the relationship between AT&T and Apple is the upcoming auction for 700-MHz wireless spectrum and AT&T’s discovery that — as I have predicted for weeks — Apple will be joining Google in bidding.”
While the Apple-Google connection is just a rumor, some think there’s a bit more to it than that, especially with Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt on Apple’s Board of Directors.
Why the interest in 700MHz?
Well, one thing we could get out of it would be a nationwide VOIP (voice over internet protocol) network. Another would be broadband delivery of content, and…
Did I just hear a bell going off?
After all, who might be just a little bit interested in the high-speed delivery of content to any iPhone, iPad, or MacBook in the United States?
Another reason for Apple to fidget, and for AT&T to worry, is the current status of AT&T’s rollout of 3G services across the country. Just 38 states have some form of 3G support, and in most of those access is limited to just a handful of major metropolitan areas. Ice ages have moved faster.
So I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a “performance” clause or two in that Apple-AT&T five-year agreement under which Apple could bail if the circumstances were right.
After all, it’s kind of hard to sell a 3G phone when there’s no 3G network.
But this is still just speculation. Apple would have to be involved with Google, and Google, of course, would have to bid and then win the auction, and then there’s the minor matter of actually building a new nationwide 700MHz network.
Could take, oh… four, five years.