ATT and Apple must be in a mini public war over the future of the iPhone. At least I hope that is the case. Why else would AT&T have so botched their free PR opportunity at Apple’s recent unveiling of the iPhone 3G S? Let me set the stage of what I saw and heard. While watching the Apple Keynote address Scott Forstall was speaking about the new iPhone 3.0 software. He made the grand announcement that the iPhone will finally (emphasis added) have MMS. Then he added the caveat of “subject to the carrier support”. The next slide showed all the carriers ready to roll out the iPhone MMS service. As he transitioned he stated with a straight face (barely) “AT&T will be ready to support MMS later this summer. Next…” The audience booed. AT&T has MMS on every other phone! Surely the iPhone implementation is close to the standards. Or is it as the recent Mac Roundtable podcast suggested, that the at&t system is so maxed out already that this new traffic would take it to the ground?
The second noted surprise came when Apple announced that iPhone 3.0 would make tethering possible. Once again the caveat was given about provider support. Once again AT&Twas not on the list. This time Scott did not even mention AT&T . He simple started to transition to a new topic. The audience quickly noticed AT&T ‘s absence on the slide and from the speech. This time they laughed.
Even if AT&T will not be able to retain exclusivity on the iPhone, this was certainly a key event to be roll out ready for. After all, no competitors are in the near future for the phone. Or is that exactly what AT&T is thinking? “We have no competitors so we will do no more than we need to.”
Another option is that this is a passive aggressive jab from Apple. Pushing/bullying AT&T into compliance with their wishes certainly would be Apple’s style. Or perhaps Apple is simply paving the way to release the phone on other carriers while slowly working the AT&T partnership into publicity oblivian. Seems wrong in that AT&T is still the only sanctioned US carrier. And yet next time they may not even mention the first US iPhone company. Who did carry it first? Verizon? It’s such a distant memory.