Verizon – iPhone News Yields Lots of Me Too Posts But Little Analysis

29 Jan ’07

After spotting today’s news of Verizon’s decision to reject an approach from Apple to be the carrier for the iPhone, I jumped over to Techmeme to look for some analysis and found – well, pretty much nothing of any interest. Kedrosky had some interesting comments, but pretty much everything else I’ve read on this story today has sizzle and no steak – big headlines, but content that does nothing other than repeat basic facts. Essentially, a lot of attempts to chase links at the top of Techmeme’s page. (10,000 monkeys comes to mind).

This is a darned shame. The theory is that atomization of media should allow better content to rise to the top. But for the umpteenth time in recent months, I’m seeing evidence that, at least when it comes to writing about tech business, that is rarely the case. There are certainly many more voices, but just about everyone is doing nothing more than copying facts from the MSM, and then wrapping it in a sugary “It will be interesting to see what happens next” coating. And once again, the lingering impression I have after looking to the ‘tropolis for analysis is that I’m wasting my time.

We should be able to do better than this.

Here are just a few angles for some discussions that seem interesting to me:

– is this story just Verizon spin, put out there in an attempt to take a free shot at competitors? Put another way, were the Verizon-Apple negotiations in fact much closer than Verizon is letting on, and are these just sour grapes? I have no reason to believe this is true or untrue, but it’s at least possible, yet no one in the ‘tropolis I’ve read seems to have considered it – everyone I’ve read is simply regurgitating Verizon’s spin on the story

– is this what happens when titan meets titan? The Motorolas of the world have surrendered to the US carriers, it seems, encouraged to do so by the competition among them and the lack of competition among the carriers. Is this what happens when a new player, less concerned with playing nice with the carriers, enters the market? Could Apple be the thin edge of the wedge, or will the lack of competition in wireless preserve the silos and carrier control over the hardware market?

– does it matter that wifi is coming? Will the increasing complexity of devices mean that carriers will have to give up more control?

– in the grand scheme of things, did Cingular actually give anything up? The Apple deal is reported to be a 5 year exclusive – should that be seen as a major concession by an Apple desperate to get its hardware on the shelves?

– why, as was reported, did Apple insist on having the right to make warranty decisions? Presumably because it knows Cingular would be happy to throw Apple’s margins to the wolves to protect Cingular’s recurring revenue from customers. What other factors came into play? Should this be seen as unusual, or is it necessary where the hardware is not your garden variety commodity celphone stuff? Does it relate to Apple’s margin on the iPhone, recently reported to be much thinner than originally guessed? Does this suggest that Apple’s pricing on the iPhone is actually quite aggressive? If so, did the aggressive pricing of the Pearl put any heat on the iPhone launch? And what about RIM generally – to the outsider it seems to be very good at distinguishing itself from the Motorolas, Nokias and Samsungs of the world. What kind of clout does it have when it comes to carriers and does that tell us anything about Apple-Verizon-Cingular?

I don’t really have answers to any of these questions. But they seem like the seeds of decent conversations to have about the Verizon-Apple news. And it’s a little disappointing to see that the MSM may well still be the best game in town for these kinds of conversations.

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