Wednesday, January 7, 2009

AT&T iPhone exclusive will eventually end

AT&T has a limited window to be sure they have a compelling reason to stick with them after their iPhone exclusive goes away.

In my opinion, Apple's iPhone App Store has changed the paradigm for telcos who love to lock down their deck. (I will admit to really wanting the silly iBeer app.) Customers will demand the ability to install their own apps at will. Windows Mobile has long supported applications, but the hardware it ran on was never as sexy as the iPhone, and Microsoft or the carriers lacked a centralized app repository. As of this writing, Blackberry still hasn't launched its promised app store. Google has just announced that it will begin selling applications in its Android Market.

AT&T and all the mobile carries also need to reduce the number of manufacturers and models they carry, or at least rationalize how they're presented to non-technical customers. Right now, AT&T's smartphone page alone lists a daunting 33 devices (including colors and memory options) from 8 manufacturers (Apple, Pantech, Blackberry, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Palm, and HTC).

Apple's genius with the iPod was that even though there is a family of iPod models and colors, consumers can still refer to each model as just an iPod. This makes choosing an MP3 player easy, and you are likely to have a friend who has shown you and trained you on his iPod. (Apple is muffing it a bit by splitting hairs between the iPhone and the iPod Touch.)

Finally, just as mobile phones are expected to have cameras, they will also be expected to have music. The mobile music nut must still be cracked! A compelling music service needs to be in AT&T's plans, whether that's iTunes on more than just the iPhone, or some other single branded service, like Rhapsody or Napster. A carrier may try to build its own branded music service, but the investment may not pay back. Users want to share music with friends, even if the friend doesn't use the same mobile carrier. Unless that problem can be solved, it will kill any carrier-based music offering.

No comments: