UBS analyst Maynard Um wrote recently that Apple might be announcing a partnership with Verizon Wireless in the coming weeks that could see a "data-centric" Apple product be made available to the carrier's subscribers. Um didn't say what that product would be.
He didn't say if the iPhone would be made available. He also didn't indicate if the product is Apple's rumored tablet device. Regardless, it's the iPhone, arguably the most important product in the mobile phone industry, that would make the greatest impact on the market if Apple brings it to Verizon Wireless.
Prior to the iPhone's release, most smartphones lacked the kind of appeal that excited end users. They didn't have a touch-screen with multitouch capabilities. They didn't offer an App Store. They didn't, in any way, deviate from the standard of the time. It was a period that was marked by derivative products from RIM and Windows Mobile vendors. It was boring. Smartphones weren't trusted companions that could provide entertainment and productivity. They were necessities that the boss made employees carry around.
But when the iPhone was released in 2007, all that changed. As Apple was revolutionizing the smartphone market, its competitors were trying desperately to stay relevant. Eventually, more companies joined the fray, unleashing several products that tried to match what the iPhone had achieved. So far, they haven't been successful in that endeavor.
But since 2007, the single obstacle Apple has faced is AT&T. Right now, several companies and consumers are opting for the BlackBerry over the iPhone because it's available on the carrier they have a contract with. It has kept the iPhone from realizing its real potential. Worst of all, it has forced Apple to leave money on the table as it continues to offer its iPhone exclusively to AT&T customers.
That's precisely why that "data-centric" Apple product Um referenced should be the iPhone. For too long, Apple has toiled away with one partner, trying to coax both consumers and businesses to switch carriers. By inking a deal with Verizon Wireless and ditching its exclusivity contract with AT&T, Apple could fully dominate the market.
Time to Worry?
By bringing the iPhone to Verizon Wireless customers, companies such as RIM, Google and Microsoft, three organizations that have phones available on multiple carriers, will need to worry. The iPhone has all the features, including a huge App Store, that users want. With Verizon Wireless availability, it would also have the ubiquity end users covet. Its competitors would need to ramp up innovation to match Apple.