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5/6/2010
02:05 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Did iPad Secure iPhone's Future At AT&T?

BroadPoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall thinks that AT&T's willingness to agree to Apple's terms for the iPad 3G data deal allowed AT&T to hold onto its exclusive iPhone contract until 2011. Marshall says a Verizon iPhone is now off the table at least until January.

BroadPoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall thinks that AT&T's willingness to agree to Apple's terms for the iPad 3G data deal allowed AT&T to hold onto its exclusive iPhone contract until 2011. Marshall says a Verizon iPhone is now off the table at least until January.Many a wishful thinker has hoped that Apple's iPhone would eventually be offered by Verizon Wireless rather than AT&T. AT&T has been the sole U.S. distribution point for the iPhone since its debut in June 2007, three years ago. From the start, neither Apple nor AT&T has ever revealed just how long the exclusivity agreement will last. Some thought five years, others 10. Most experts in the field have settled on three years as the magical number. Having exclusive access to the iPhone for three years would have guaranteed AT&T several generations of new users with each successive product from Apple.

The three year anniversary is but a few weeks away, and Apple's WWDC -- where is has launched the last two iPhones -- is approaching swiftly. Will Apple shake the iPhone loose from AT&T's grasp?

Up until recently, most believed that, yes, this summer the iPhone would be available via other carriers and specifically from Verizon Wireless. But AT&T and Apple threw a monkey wrench into the gears. That wrench was the iPad.

Marshall was "floored" when Apple announced in January that AT&T would be the sole wireless data provider for the iPad 3G. He and other analysts fully expected Verizon to land the iPad contract. It didn't. Why not? Pricing, for starters. AT&T is offering (truly) unlimited data to the iPad 3G for a mere $30 per month. That's half what unlimited data plans cost for devices such as laptop dongles (and those plans are really capped at 5GB). AT&T is also offering a cheaper, $15 monthly plan for 250MB of data. Those prices are very low. Much lower, apparently, than Verizon Wireless was willing to go.

Marshall believes that because AT&T was willing to go so far to make the iPad 3G inexpensive to use as a mobile Internet device, that Apple did AT&T a big favor: It extended its exclusive arrangement for the iPhone by another six months, pushing it into 2011.

This is all speculation, keep in mind, but it sounds reasonable to me. We'll most likely learn more on June 7, when Apple kicks of its WWDC in San Francisco.

[Via Yahoo News]

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