Friday, 30 November 2007

Another example of why the tech industry and mobile operators don't get along

When you work in consumer electronics, one of the rules that gets drilled into you very early on is that you never do anything to disrupt the holiday selling season. In the US, the month between Thanksgiving and the end of the year can account for three months' worth of sales, if not more. During that time, you don't change prices, you don't alter your ad campaigns, and most of all you don't ever say anything about future products, because that might cause customers to hesitate before making a holiday purchase.

So the CEO of ATT, giving a speech this week in Silicon Valley of all places, says that a 3G version of the iPhone is in the works:

"Has Jobs announced that? I don't think he's announced that, but you'll have it next year."

Not only does he spill the beans, but he acknowledges that Apple hasn't announced it and then talks about it anyway (link). The next day the story is carried by the AP, MSNBC, the Times of London, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the SJ Mercury News (which had the version of the quote above), and 318 other publications according to Google.

In the US, the assessment from a lot of commentators is that this won't have much impact because the iPhone is so popular anyway. Maybe, I guess, although the iPhone isn't sold out, so any loss in sales is still a loss. But in Europe, I think it could be a big problem. iPhone sales there are not going great to begin with, and folks in Europe are generally much more conscious of 3G vs. 2G issues. The acknowledgment that a 3G iPhone is coming could cause a lot of people to hesitate before buying.

If AT&T competed directly with Orange, O2, and T-Mobile Germany, I'd be tempted to speculate that they made the announcement on purpose to hurt the competition. But they don't, so I suspect this is just a case of a CEO who wanted to show that he's not controlled by Steve Jobs but instead demonstrated that he doesn't understand consumer electronics.

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