Cringely: AT&T’s Shot Across Apple’s Bow

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AT&Tis;CEO Randall Stephenson, on Thursday, made an iPhone 3G announcement that preempted Steve Jobs, and it stands to lose perhaps a billion dollars in Christmas revenue for Apple, according to Robert X. Cringely on Friday. Mr. Stephenson did it to send Mr. Jobs a message, Mr. Cringely hypothesized.

The announcement came when Mr. Stephenson was in Santa Clara on Thursday, and appears to be a shot across Appleis bow, perhaps based on an internal dispute, and was intended to deliver the message that AT&T doesnit need Apple all that badly.

Apple customers who now decide to wait for the 3G iPhone could cause Apple to lose perhaps one million customers this Christmas.

Mr. Cringely hypothesized that the friction came from Appleis possible partnership with Google in the upcoming bidding for the 700 MHz spectrum space. "AT&T thought its five-year iexclusivei iPhone agreement with Apple would have precluded such a bid, but that just shows how poorly Randall Stephenson understood Steve Jobs. Steve always hurts his friends to see how much they really love him, so AT&T probably should have expected this kind of corporate body blow," Mr. Cringely wrote.

The PBS author went on to speculate that Apple would end up using the 700 MHz space for data, then VOIP, in direct competition with AT&T -- although, he admitted that Apple hasnit publicly made such an announcement. Even so, Mr. Cringely is confident that Mr. Stephensonis announcement is a symptom of some emerging friction between the two companies or a preemptive warning, and the announcement on Thursday by Mr. Stephenson was a billion dollar piece of Christmas coal in Mr. Jobis stocking.

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