By Greg Mills
Verizon iPhone rumors are making enough waves that it's starting to seem this may actually jell in some form.
Apple is so famously secretive on product development and new product launches, you sort of need to take Apple related rumors with a grain of salt. Sometimes, rumors pan out, and sometimes they don't. Steve Jobs is famous for punishing parts companies that leak accurate information about what they are doing.
Some folks don't understand the copycat problem Apple has with Microsoft and a scad of other players who have made an industry of knocking off everything Apple does and diluting the market. Add the suspense and drama Jobs weaves into new product launches and you have a marketing program Apple's competition dreams about. Millions of dollars of free advertising and favorable spin are a major benefit. (iPhone 4's "Antennagate" being an exception to the rule.)
"MacDailyNews.com" ran a story yesterday with disclaimers that the story might be unfounded rumors, but that the tips came from a normally reliable source. I suspect the rumors are mostly true as the details leaked make sense and fit in with what else we already know. See http://macdailynews.com/index.php/weblog/comments/27813/ .
Apple's exclusive deal with AT&T is getting long in the tooth and, by some estimates, Apple will sell 10,000,000 more iPhones the first year by also selling through Verizon. At up to US$600 a pop, that is an amazing sum of money, even for Apple. It is a well known fact that Android has thrived on the market that consists of people who prefer an iPhone but can't or won't switch to AT&T.
With Android being the only really viable modern alternative smart phone platform to the Apple iOS, Apple must continue to grow market share to stay ahead of the pack. As I mentioned before, AT&T won't lose so many customers to Verizon they will go into a serious decline, but there will be a correction in new iPhone sales related to losing the exclusive deal with Apple. Actually, people with poor AT&T service who stay will see some benefit if the bandwidth load drops off due to new Verizon iPhone activations. There will be a lot of used iPhones on the market for a while that run on AT&T's 3G network
Secondly, as I mentioned in Saturday's Greg's Bite article, building an iPhone based upon the other main format for cell phones will allow Apple to sell iPhones to a lot of additional cell phone providers around the world. What did surprise me was that the rumors are for a LTE capable iPhone. This is a multiple radio band iPhone that can run on both the 3G and 4G networks. If that part of the story is true, it would allow the iPhone to leverage amazing speeds, when the 4G networks are actually up and running.
Clear loaned me a 4G hot spot device that they recently launched with great gusto and made promises for coverage and fast service that, in my mind, are more than a little wishful thinking. It seems like the cell phone companies have artists draw coverage maps with wide felt tip markers when a fine point pen would be more accurate.
My test of the Clear hot spot was that the network wasn't mature enough to make the contract with Clear worthwhile -- and I live only a mile from a new tower. The real problem with doing business with Clear is that you have to also date Clear's ugly siamese twin sitter, Sprint, to go out on a date with the beautiful Clear. When you can't get the 4G network, most of the Clear Hot Spots revert to 3G, which in this case means an additional contract with Sprint. That is certainly a killer problem as far as I am concerned. Clear is in financial difficulties which have been dumped into Sprint's lap.
From what I have been able to read the hand-off from 4G to 3G on the Verizon network has had problems that Apple and Verizon are working on. While going from one cell tower to another during an uninterrupted call is sometimes seamless on a mature 3G network, dropping from 4G down to 3G seems to have some unexpected issues.
It takes a long time and a lot of money to launch a cell phone network, and that reportedly has Job's undershorts in a twist. I was amazed to read that some European cell phone companies have been asking Apple to help them get their networks up to speed to support the broadband hog we all love. If the rumors are true, Apple might actually be helping AT&T and Verizon with loans to get the 4G networks up sooner, rather than later.
The long and short of it: expect the Apple iPhone 5 to be a dual band phone when it comes out for Verizon soon -- and later in the spring when AT&T launches its version. Having both flavors of iPhone, Verizon's CDMA and AT&T's GSM running 4G, when it is available will certainly be easy to sell when Jobs takes the stage. Keep in mind that if you have invested in apps that run on your AT&T iPhone, your activation of a Verizon iPhone will transfer those apps to your new Verizon iPhone.
Microsoft's obvious failure to launch a timely touch screen tablet os to support its normal "hardware partners" is a subject I have been blogging about for a while now. A Goldman Sachs analyst confirms my point in a recent research note and has downgraded Microsofts expected revenue growth for next year to be half the growth seen this year. She also discounts the newly released Windows Vista 7 Mobile OS as likely to only ramp up Microsoft's overall mobile OS presence in the market from 7% to 10%. This, the same day Goldman Sachs raised Apple's stock target price to $430.
By anyone's expectation, with all that Microsoft has put on the line, a 3% market share in the burgeoning smart phone market is peanuts. The stale, existing 7% of the market using the obsolete Windows Mobile OS is actually bound to drop dramatically over the next year, as business users get new phones, which might leave some room for a bit more than 3% for the new Mobile Vista 7 OS. Any way you slice it, with Apple and Android surging, Microsoft is striking out in the important mobile OS market.
A number of additional ominous signs are that Microsoft's "partners" are bailing out of the Titanic, seeing the large iceberg clearly ahead, while captan Ballmer takes a nap. Intel has set up a dedicated table group to split its support between Microsoft, Nokia and Google's three tablet OS projects under development. Microsoft is no longer the dominant player. HP bought Palm, in many respects due to the lack of a viable tablet OS from Microsoft. These hardware partners in the PC world are going separate ways due to the giant vacuum at the top at Microsoft.
A further bit of bad news for Microsoft, my fund raising efforts to provide money for a tongue reduction surgery for Mr. Ballmer and iPads for Bill Gates' iOS deprived kids has come up dry. I guess it is the bad economy.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org )