The good laugh, BTW, comes from an old memory of me walking into an AT&T store 6 years ago (yup, they were called AT&T then) and realizing that already then they were selling Motorola unlocked handsets.
Another reason to a good smile is that, as far as my technical hat goes, no GSM operator has ever attempted to correlate users' IMSI with their sold IMEI at the (in other words, make sure the subscriber is using the handset sold to them) and it would mean more work. The blocking happens at the handset level, which means the vendor has to put it in. why would they if they can push back and sell more?. Anyway, This correlates well with:
"You can use any handset on our network you want," says Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's wireless business. "We don't prohibit it, or even police it."
As far as Verizon goes, they will still be CDMA (alongside Sprint vs. T-Mobile and AT&T), hence iPhone (for example) will simply not work on their network, will it? in fact, only CDMA phones, traditionally manufactured to Verizon's requirements will pretty much work. Verizon is building a $20 million testing lab but has not provided details about how this process will work. Guess how the testing criteria will look like? Guess how much certification will cost and who will bear those costs?
"In the short term, it's a giant publicity stunt," says wireless analyst Bill Hughes at researcher In-Stat. I agree.
Just to make things more interesting, throw in Amazon's new Kindle device. an EV-DO device that acts like a cool reader. EV-DO means you're married to Sprint or Verizon pretty much (in this case, Sprint), you can't download more content if you're outside the US BTW. Why is Kindle relevant to this discussion? because Sprint branding is nowhere to be seen. there's no sign up and no monthly fee with Sprint. An improvement on their MVNO strategy or a shift in branding awareness?
I read Bijan's interesting post "When did we agree to being locked in?", who also commented on the AT&T announcement by saying:
"Networks need to be open.
Devices need to work everywhere.
Content needs to be distributed anywhere.
Which walled garden is coming down next?"
I agree, utopia or maybe UK reality (on that in a separate post). But that brings me to my main point here. This is all reactionary to Google's Android announcements (dare I say hype? again?). Everyone's crawling under the table in light of the announcements and not being in the "open". So the last Mobile Monday Boston, taken place during the Mobile Internet conference, featured Google's Android as they are obviously local. Here's how it went:
- Is there a GPhone? No there isn't. There is a reference platform built by HTC. Ah...
- Will there be a GPhone? "We are not building a GPhone; we are enabling 1,000 people to build a GPhone". Ah...
- What's the story then? "the open-source strategy would encourage rapid innovation and lower the bar to entry in the highly competitive handset market, where software accounts for an increasing share of the cost of making a phone."
Here's what I think Google can be a game changer at: Their success at building a phone or OS is to be seen, but what Google are great at, is impressions, CPMs, advertising, search, optimization and content. What a single Nokia flag store in NYC didn't do to the operators realization that content, mobile purchasing and advertising is the key to move forward, Google can do.
We'll see where this ball rolls next. interesting times indeed. Operators are certainly reacting, whether through real changes or PR.