Mobile
Commentary
5/27/2009
02:45 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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AT&T Chief Foresees The Palm Pre In Its Future

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson may have let the cat out of the bag a little bit early on this one. In speaking at the All Things Digital conference, he noted that the company will sell the Palm Pre once Sprint's exclusivity runs out.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson may have let the cat out of the bag a little bit early on this one. In speaking at the All Things Digital conference, he noted that the company will sell the Palm Pre once Sprint's exclusivity runs out.Stephenson was on the hot seat today at the All Things Digital conference in California. He was taking shots about the company's 3G network capabilities, and did his best to defend AT&T's honor.

During his speech he loosed several nuggets of information that the mobile industry should find noteworthy.

First and foremost, he said that AT&T will likely sell Palm's Pre smartphone at some point in the future. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Mr. Stephenson added he sees AT&T selling the Pre after the exclusive arrangement with Sprint expires." Whoa. Nice one, Stephenson.

The Palm Pre, which Sprint will begin selling on June 6, will first come in a CDMA configuration. When Palm first launched the Pre during CES earlier this year, it mentioned that the company was already working on a UMTS version of the Pre. A UMTS version would be compatible with AT&T's network. Stephenson merely confirmed what we've already suspected: The Pre will be available via more carriers than just Sprint.

What does that mean for Sprint? The company is (partly) banking its near-term growth and success on the performance of the Pre. It would have pushed Palm for as long an exclusivity deal as possible.

From Palm's perspective, it needs to sell as many devices as possible. The more carriers it has touting its devices, the better off it will be in the long run. So, what you think? Will Sprint have 60 days, 90 days, 180 days as the sole seller of the Pre in the U.S.? I have a hard time believing it will be longer than 90 days, which means it has just three months to sign as many customers as possible before losing them to AT&T and other carriers.

The other tidbit of information was reported by PCMag. According to it, Stephenson implied that variable pricing for mobile data is the future. PCMag writes, "Pricing models will change over time, depending on how much data customers use, he said. There's a 'variable cost' for wireless data, as opposed to fixed wired data, and that will be reflected in pricing."

In other words, a $20 or $30 monthly unlimited data plan may be a thing of the past.

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