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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
November 29, 2007 -- When Networks Collide
Status: [CLOSED]

This is the Cringely we all know. Hopefully we'll see more articles of this caliber in the future.

Solipsism | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:07AM

this will backfire on AT&T in a big way. Don't be surprised if future iPod system upgrades don't bother to brick jailbreaks. Sure, apple may lose some revenue from non at&t customers, but the margins they make on tons of new sales will mitigate this. as will the value of becoming the jewel of the Android crown. Also, hopefully this a) motivates Apple to screw AT&T and definitely bid and b. for Steve to be double sure that he keeps all future moves close to the vest.

as | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:12AM

Apple phone/touch running Google software (voice over IP) on Google network. How you say "end-run".

Pogo | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:15AM

IMO Apple partnered with AT&T just to get its product launched successfully. Jobs (and most of Silicon Valley) knows the future of telephony is not in legacy switched networks. The Randall Stephensons and Pat Russos of the world haven't grasped that reality yet. iPhone will indeed be a data centric device. Some of that "data" will be VoIP. AT&T's next stop is the halls of Congress where they will lobby for laws to try and stop the inevitable.

kelly C | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:12AM

Stephenson is going to be the next Doug Morris (CEO of Universal). Jobs will make him tons of money, save his butt and then Stephenson (like Morris) will complain that Jobs has too much power. Look for AT&T to then try and counter in about five years with the Zune Phone--except they will demand that Microsoft subsidize THEM to use AT&T's pipes. In the meantime, the 700Mhz iPhone 3.0 (or 4.0) will offer 10,000 Songs, The Internet and HD iChat in your pocket.

as | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:20AM

Reminds me of that old video of the Civil War locomotives running headlong into each other (one of the very oldest moving images.)

Of course, Buster Keaton's "The General" ( or Edison's "Great Train Robbery" ( might be more apropos!

Gary B | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:38AM

It is the M.O. of these bell-shaped heads to hold back innovation as long as possible so they can squeeze a few more dollars out of their obsolete, overpriced and artificially constrained networks. I bet they spend more on lawyers and lobbyists then they do on R&D. This is why we are seeing the slow and steady decline of the US auto industry, the music industry and microsoft. Similarly, AT&T and VZW may win some short term battles but they will lose the war. Good riddance!

Esteban Trabajos | Nov 30, 2007 | 2:16AM

When are CEO's and their corporations going to learn to get out of Steve's way and allow him to forge the future unimpeded!?!

Maybe when they learn it’s the future we want and not the one they’ve envision… because of lack of vision.

Juan Miguel | Nov 30, 2007 | 2:22AM

I hope this will all be compatible with my next generation Osborn.

Ken | Nov 30, 2007 | 5:00AM

Corporate body blow? Steve has already said they're coming when the chipsets are ready, and it was already an open secret from comments made here and abroad that 2008 was the year.

Nor do I think it will "stop sales in their tracks", and neither did the Piper Jay analyst quoted in the original Bloomberg story. Coming "next year" is simply too long a time frame.

Finally, if Steve wants to trade blows, he could talk about the OTHER major stumbling block to a 3G iPhone, which is the glacial pace at which AT&T is rolling out coverage.


Michael Long | Nov 30, 2007 | 5:19AM

the airwaves have to be "democratized" before the long tail of innovation in sensor and location based services really blossoms. otherwise, the innovators will end up frustrated dealing with the clueles bellheads.

ajespinosa | Nov 30, 2007 | 5:27AM

the airwaves have to be "democratized" before the long tail of innovation in sensor and location based services really blossoms. otherwise, the innovators will end up frustrated dealing with the clueless bellheads.

ajespinosa | Nov 30, 2007 | 5:28AM

Oh no......
I'm old enough to remember.
Does that officially make me an "old guy?"

Eric J. White | Nov 30, 2007 | 6:59AM

"...[I]t's sad, wouldn't you say, when this is what American business has come to."

Yes. Yes, I would.

The Misanthrope | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:11AM

So ? anyone remember:
AT&T laptop computer with dual batteries ?
AT&T StarServer multi-processor ?
3B2 unix box ? (my bff)

No ?
my bet is they want to kill iphone sales now to increase the 3 sales next year. That's the AT&T I know and love.

tpotter | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:23AM

Remember that the winning bid on the 700-Mhz spectrum is just the beginning. The cost to actually build out that spectrum could cost almost as much as the license price, down to practically nothing (depending on how the winning companies decide to build out; i.e. ground-up -- peer-to-peer -- or traditional top-down -- cell towers).

Anyone happen to know how the behavior of the 700-Mhz signals compares to today's cell phone frequencies? Distance, ability to bounce around, line-of-sight requirements, etc? Similar characteristics or different? That would certainly play a factor in the business model.

Josch Moe | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:32AM


My own guess is that Verizon specs won't preclude phones themselves from being certified. There are some folks who really like the "whatchamacallit" so they are on another network. Verizon would surely like to get their fifty bucks.

Rather, for any program you want to run on the phone, Verizon will require some kind of application key. Those keys will be in a big VZ database. The phone will look up the program's key before it can run. Those keys will be Verizon's license to innovate, and will be hard to come by. They might also add another drop of revenue -- you wouldn't want your app's key to disappear from the database, would you? No Mologogo for Verizon customers. Although the verizon equivalent will be available... for an additional $4.95/mo...

Jeff | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:43AM

Google sells media space. Apple has the device and marketing genes to create it.

BUT! any connected device may support adverts, be it iPod or iPhone or Nokiaxx - You know what? even AT&T can provide the platform. SO!?

It's all about the business model.

Google's strategy is to provide the best overall user experience in order to glue eyeballs to their media space.
Google may offer free data network directly to end users with any device and application (aka gPhone) as long as they are able to push adverts.
Google may also OEM their system to Apple, using similar tactics with their Site-Confined search engine. Sort of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)with a twist.

PS. For Apple, being close to a huge and effective distribution network, isn't bad at all.

Moish | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:46AM

To continue along TPOTTER's line of thought:
Perhaps the unlimited internet on the current I-phone is starting to overload AT&T's network. So AT&T wants to reduce the number of new subscribers till 3G is installed. If this is the case, expect very slow internet access on the I-phone right before 3G is up. Also the new 3G plan might have limited internet access.

kirk | Nov 30, 2007 | 8:05AM

Actually, I think I believe Verizon. I think they see what is coming. And add MS as a partner with Google and Apple. If Verizon opens it up, they stand to gain subscribers. If not, they will surely lose them, and I think they know it.

Matt Clary | Nov 30, 2007 | 8:32AM

My understanding is the current iPhone's ARM CPU is too underpowered to do VOIP codecs. Via and Intel have some low-power x86 processors that can do the job, though, so a VOIP iPhone is going to be considerably different from, and incompatible with, the current iPhones.

nobody | Nov 30, 2007 | 8:37AM

I give VZW a little credit here. I suspect that their announcement is mostly hype as well, however they do get credit for at least seeing the writing on the wall and getting out in front of the mandate decoupling the device from the service. It may, as you suggest, turn out to be impossible to get most devices approved, but they'll at least have the infrastructure in place to make things happen when the government finally requires it. That will eventually be a competitive advantage because when it's mandated, they'll beat all the other players to the goal line and get more customers early on. And you can bet they'll recover a lot of their lost iPhone customers because by the time that kind of access is required, 4G LTE will be in place, which both AT&T Wireless and VZW are standardizing on.

rob | Nov 30, 2007 | 8:55AM


Lonny Martello | Nov 30, 2007 | 9:09AM

TEH FUCHING FERRET - now there's a guy in touch with reality - thanks, I needed that! I've been to that motel in Rantoul.

dino | Nov 30, 2007 | 9:38AM

AT&T and VW need to win a Nationwide License in 700 Mhz in order for them to cost effectively deploy the new LTE technology planned for 2012-2013.
AT&T is already more then half way there using the Lower Band C Block they purchased from Aloha and what they plan to bid in the Lower Band A & possible B Block to fill in their Nationwide lIcense.
Key: AT&T will not have to deal with the FCC mandated OPEN Access piece in the Nationwide Lower Band Spectrum they will win-like VW needed to address.
They (AT&T) are also committed to LTE, which is very much unproven & overhyped at this point.

VW needs the 700Mhz if it is to remain a viable competitor to AT&T in the Wireless Data Distribution market.

I also believe that in order for Google to compete for the Nationwide Spectrum (Upper Band C Block)it will need both the deep pockets Apple brings as well as a reliable Network Operator-Not sure Sprint fits that bill. However, T-Mobile may be more of a reliable Worldwide Partner.
What both Google and Apple need is ownership & or control of the Last Mile service which the 700Mhz would bring them. They need unfettered accees to the end user and this approach would provide them just that.
A WiMAX based Network operating on 700Mhz spectrum (as early as late 2009) would cause both AT&T and VW fits as they await their LTE based systems (as early as 2012).
The big question that remains in this Broadband Wireless space is what will Sprint end up doing with their WiMAX network based on a 2.5Ghz system that will be crippled or severly limited by Foliage-especially in the Rural and East Coast Urban markets ?
WiMAX will shine w/700Mhz,MIMO and other smart antenna designs and provide universal coverage/penetration of foliage and long reach in the Mobile/Portable and Fixed markets.

Jim (aka Jacomo)

Jim A | Nov 30, 2007 | 9:46AM

can't remember the last time (what year) you where even close to the wall with a glass.
give-it-up, no one talks with you any more.
you and enderle must hang-out together

ryan | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:21AM

1. Next year, there will be a much faster and Mac computer.
2. Steve Jobs already said in October that 3G chips that will allow for 5+ hours talk time will arrive "later next year". So don't see anything new in what Stephenson said. So Cringely is far overstating its maliciousness.
3. It's obvious that Apple wants an open mobile bit pipe for its iPhone, since Jobs has previously referred to the carriers as "orifices". So I too think Apple will bid with Google. But it will take a while before users can use that spectrum. at&t has four years (or less) to become a better bit pipe than anyone else, as I think by then iPhone will definitely be an open device.

mark | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:21AM

About that low powered ARM processor argument. Simple solution = hardware. Think about the gazillions of MPEG decoder chips that Bob talked about so many months ago going into every last Apple product (think back to time of the "new" Apple Mac Mini). How hard is it to make a hardware GSM, 7.11, 7.29, etc. codec? I'm thinking this could be a college junior project for an electrical engineer.

Brooks Robinson | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:27AM

I have theory which I put forth for ridicule and fact-checking. I have not heard it mentioned before, but is it possible Steve Jobs has arranged a 5 year carrier exclusivity contract for THIS iPhone, not successive models. Verizon is opening it's network to 'other devices', which may include among others, a cdma, retail purchased, un-activated iPhoneX. January '08 seems awfully fast turnaround for Verizon to make this sudden network policy change. Apple will be released of any carrier activation hassles as the customer is responsible for finding their own 'compatible carrier'. AT&T gets wind of this and realizes they have been duped and lays out the smack that Bob describes, despite the fact it will be meaningless in the face of 15 million more, cdma, iPhones.

madboys | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:37AM

Congratulations on your scoop of Apple '' $30+ billion Apple has squirreled away'' news. I foolishly thought it was about half that amount

George G | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:48AM

Josch Moe said:
"Anyone happen to know how the behavior of the 700-Mhz signals compares to today's cell phone frequencies? Distance, ability to bounce around, line-of-sight requirements, etc? Similar characteristics or different? That would certainly play a factor in the business model."

Answer: The 700MHz spectrum becomes available as a result of TV stations transitioning to digital. This is the UHF band on your old TV dial. It has slightly better penetration than 850MHz, and much better penetration than 1900MHz. Being UHF, it is high enough in frequency to do some bounce (like microwaves do); but low enough to penetrate walls and obstacles. Therefore it's the best of both worlds. Depending on tower height, the digital signals should easily reach out to 30 and 40 miles, and possibly out to 60 or 70 miles.

Kenny Bain | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:50AM

One thing not mentioned is the concept for potential joint ventures in this upcoming auction. What would prevent a union between a Google and an Apple from getting together and styling a beautiful device with access to the organized worlds information. Could be powerful stuff!

James D Kirk | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:52AM

Others have been predicting an Apple end-run around AT&T, using VoIP, since announcement day. 700MHz bids just add to the game.

Valenci | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:13AM

Apple doesn't make billion dollar purchases. There is no way Apple will be bidding on the 700mhz auction. Will it eventually work with Google if Google successfully purchases the spectrum? Possibly. IT is also possible Google and Apple have talked about Apple using some of the spectrum. Apple will not be buying it though. Apple likes having a huge cash hoard.

I also think Stephenson loves Apple. He made the comment to show off, makes himself look good to his audience, and he probably didn't think the remarks would receive so much coverage. Other companies have made the same mistake.

Terrin | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:41AM

I just hope all these cigar-chomping fatcats fight & compete so fiercly that it drives prices down precipitously. Let Apple, Google, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and others pound the crap out of each other with the consumer being the beneficiary. After years of limited choice and freakin' 2-year contracts, it's about time that the mobile phone industry grew up and faced the same market forces that (almost) every other industry grapples with.

Dan | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:42AM

I have to agree with Mr. Long. This appears a bit overblowen to me. From reading the various reports on the statement this appears to be a stock answer to a common question. Jobs already targetted 2008 for 3g. The only thing new here is that it came from ATT without the same technical caveat's Jobs includes, which is not suprising since it's not ATT equipment. How 'bout alternative speculation - Apple releases 3g iPhone 2.0 next fall, just in time for christmas, and iPhone 1.0 becomes one of ATT's fully subsidised phones. May not be as fun a rumor, but it makes a whole lot more sense to me and doesn't require wearing a tin-foil hat.

IMHO | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:48AM

It's official: Google is bidding. But according to the press release, their application does not include any partners.

That was... quick. Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted.

Michael Long | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:55AM

I just hope all these cigar-chomping fatcats fight & compete so fiercly that it drives prices down precipitously. Let Apple, Google, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and others pound the crap out of each other with the consumer being the beneficiary. After years of limited choice and freakin' 2-year contracts, it's about time that the mobile phone industry grew up and faced the same market forces that (almost) every other industry grapples with.

Dan | Nov 30, 2007 | 11:42AM

Out of everything said, this is by far the comment I can get behind most vociferously...

Robert Anthony Pitera | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:10PM

The US market needs an open cellular network so wireless innovation can bloom just as broadband has amped up innovation for the Internet. Outside-the-box thought; how about if Apple and Google together purchase the spectrum up for auction? Yes, they would be in competition, but at least they would not be out of the game, as would be the case if left to the constraints of the current mobile carriers. Sometimes an enemy of your enemy can be a friend… or at least an ally.

Darren Suprina | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:12PM

And BTW, why is it that no one seems to mention what a SCAM it is to mandate all digital transmission of TV spectrum to begin with, making OTA TV a thing of the past and force everyone to connect to cable?

Robert Pitera | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:12PM

I'm a little baffled as to why anyone is treating Stephenson's statement as news. Apple first announced the iPhone in January 2007 and specifically mentioned there would be 3G support in the future. Does anyone really think they would wait more than *two years*, until 2009, to do that? Steve Jobs mentioned again at one of the European iPhone press conferences they were working on it. Stephenson said something because he knew he was only restating the obvious.

Guess what, the largest accessory maker for the iPod just announced there would be new iPods announced in time for the 2008 Holiday buying season!! I guess 1 million people will now cancel their 2007 iPod purchases, right?

This is just another example of the frenzy that now

Joe T | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:20PM

Yeah, I gotta concur. Steve Jobs said 3G was in the future, but "now" it didn't make sense because of battery life. On a phone, he said, it's important to get as much talk time as possible. No one wants their phone dying on them.

I think most of us were expecting a 3G iPhone in the future; likewise most buyers knew that too. I doubt it will affect their sales in the millions. The iPhone has plenty going for it without 3G.

Biffniff | Nov 30, 2007 | 12:25PM

Jobs is a sneaky scumbag, If Stephenson hasn't realized this, he's really stupid.

Sebhelyesfarku | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:08PM

Did anybody else notice the circular reasoning in this speculative blog? In one paragraph, the author presents Apple's intent to bid on spectrum as fact in order to support his interpretation of Stephenson's comments. Here is a snippit of that paragraph.

Later, the author confesses that there is no public data to confirm that Apple will be making a bid on spectrum and uses Stephenson's comments to confirm his longheld speculation that they will. Here is that relevant snippit:

To which I say: Cringely may very well be correct that Apple will bid on spectrum. I think they should. But it is really a stretch to use Stephenson's comment as confirmation. There are potentially other reasons why Stephenson may have done that deed.


Thompson | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:11PM

News Flash: Sept. 19, 2007 - Steve Jobs utters these words:

"You can expect a 3G iPhone later next year.

"We are working on the next iPhone already, the one after that and the one after that."

No, Duh!

Jay Weiss | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:13PM

Thompson, you're knew to Cringely aren't you?

Anthony | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:32PM

Intel's new ultra-low power processor, Silverthorn, will be out mid-2008. It should be in the next iphone.

Will C. | Nov 30, 2007 | 1:53PM

You're a little biased towards Apple here, Cringley. You said:

"If you are old enough you may remember AT&T expressed great fear back then that telephones not from its Western Electric subsidiary (now Alcatel-Lucent) would somehow 'damage' the telephone network."

And missed the obvious opportunity to point out that the "damange the telephone network" absurdity is the same one used by Jobs to cripple the iPhone from third-party apps.

As someone on slashdot put it:

"Yea, as if my Palm Treo is crashing Sprint's network all the time."

You're supposedt to give Apple a harder time about that, Cringley. We read you because your A geek journalist, not just a journalist.

Bog | Nov 30, 2007 | 2:35PM

There is another way to look at this story. Let us suppose AT&T pre-announced the 3G version of the iPhone with the intent of slowing sales and sending a warning to Apple not to mess with the "phone company!" Many companies, AT&T included are really obsessed with quarterly and yearly earnings. Anything that would slow sales would definitely upset them. The flaw in this plan is Apple. Does Apple really care if iPhone sales are slower than planned, if they know they'll sell the same number of phones over the next 6 months? NO. Apple has a business plan, a growing business, money in the bank. Their focus is solely on the future, not next quarters financials. AT&T's announcement, if it was to warn Apple, was probably a wasted effort.

If Google does win the 700mhz auction and if a VoIP network is built on it, then that would be huge competitive challenge to AT&T. I bet Apple's agreement with AT&T does not prohibit them from making devices that could connect to the internet and run telephony software. Instead of trying to intimidate Apple, AT&T would be wise to tap into Apple's expertise and find a new way to make money when the wireless communications market changes. Apple could be the best thing that ever happened to AT&T.

My interpretation of the announcement is a little less dire. I think AT&T was just trying to improve its image, show its "hipness" in Silicon Valley.

Yeah Right.

John | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:08PM

You know, I worked for AT&T when they had a Data Systems Division lo those many years ago, and I would not be at all surprized to see them make an announcement like this that hurts current sales, for no reason at all other than a misunderstanding of what is good marketing. After all, when I worked there, we used to joke that if you wanted to solve the drug problem in America, you just needed to give AT&T a monopoly to sell the drugs, and within a year the sales of Marijuana model 3650 (with a six point bullet list of features (including "decreased incidence of munchies")) on the box would be in a steady decline.

Of course, that was from back in the days when we sold 3B2's, while a little company in California was buying our own WE32000 VME Cpu boards and putting them in off the shelf VME crates with off the shelf VME hardware, and selling a system that ran our own AT&T System V Unix(tm) faster, and for 2/3 the cost.

Marc | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:42PM

I, Cringley has been talking about this situation for some time.

1. 700 Mhz is a good frequency for phones and Wi-Max.

2. Google has been siting data centers in tractor-trailer containers all across the country. Cringley's guess was for Google to use them to store video locally rather than constantly asking for downloads. But, those Data Centers would work well for a VOIP phone system too.

3. The "Last Mile to the Home " is the hardest part to link. Any system that does so will gain huge market shares.

4. AT&T only covers 30% of the US, so if Apple intends to make the iPhone ubiquitous, then it needs to try something new.

The Local Bell system have a monopoly on local phone service that is hard to break into. Then add in that the different Bells use incompatible hardware. The Phone systems are a mess world wide.

So, what if Google buys the 700 Mhz spectrum and then runs fiber optic cables from its Data Centers to centralized locations for Wi-Max and phone service?

What if Apple comes out with a VOIP phone using Google's 700 Mhz wireless system? Will this violate Apple's contract with AT&T? Not Likely.

This would widen the area that an iPhone could be used in. It would overcome the complaints about "Locked" iPhones.

Google doesn't have as bad a reputaion as the phone companies. This coult be very upsetting to the phone company's monopolies.

Louis wheeler | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:47PM

"Loose lips sink ships". Apple are not kind to those that feel they should 'share' future strategy with media. I think the ATT fellow just did a Mexican Hat Dance on his schwantz. Between Jobs, Google and et al, the 700 club will be theirs. Immediately a new, hand held talking device --- totally different ---- in form from the iPhone will spring to life. I would bet the agreement with ATT and Apple is for the iPhone not some 'other' hand set. This will happen because ATT is a stone around Apple's neck. They are slugs that are techno-incompetents unable to capitalize on their monopoly in the wireless arena due to management. It is like bringing a wheel chair to a Formula 1 race -- as a competitor! ATT simply cannot run with the Valley crew. Simply not nimble enough either in body or soul.

Apple Pie | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:49PM

3B2 unix box ? (my bff)

I remember company at the time ordered 1 from AT&T. They shipped us 2. I figured they were no long for the computer business after that.

Charlie Xavier | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:53PM

Yes, everyone already expects 3G iPhone in 2008. AT&T announcement may have been planed with Apple to defer sales of existing (compeditive) 3G phones this holiday. Wait for the 3G iPhone and buy an iPod for now.

Gordon Dover | Nov 30, 2007 | 3:54PM

"Steve always hurts his friends to see how much they really love him"

i've never seen it stated better. 2 kudos.

moofus | Nov 30, 2007 | 4:32PM

Fascinating developments. It's interesting to me how no one else is pointing out their suspected reasons behind his leak. Most writers are saying nothing, and one ZDNet writer even suggested that this makes little difference, but you seem to be making more sense out of this than any of them. Whether or not you're right or not on the motivations behind this move, I felt your previous iPhone predictions made a lot of sense. Now where's that rapid text entry you were talking about that would make the iPhone even more useful to me?

Stephen Huey | Nov 30, 2007 | 4:34PM

It's already been stated by Apple that a 3G version was coming in 2008. I think it was more of AT&T possibly trying to drum up more business. The SF Bay Area is one of the most affluent areas in the country. Current iPhone users won't flinch about dumping their ver. 1 for the 3G model when it becomes available, and new users will have access to their 3G network...Have a look at the AT&T 3G coverage map in that area:

Tuco Ramirez | Nov 30, 2007 | 4:44PM

The CEO of ATT is new to the wireless world, on future topics with Wireless he needs to bring Ralph de la Vega with him to answer the wireless questions. This error would not have happened with an experienced executive in wireless like Ralph del la Vega(ATT Mobility's new leader)

Will Robinson | Nov 30, 2007 | 4:45PM

so much energy wasted on this little morsel of non-news.

Steve Jobs already announced this weeks ago. No secret, no slip-up, no news.

some of the conspiracy theories are quite entertaining though.

nathan | Nov 30, 2007 | 5:53PM

I thought I saw a guy with the iPhone on the grassy knoll.

Pope | Nov 30, 2007 | 6:14PM

Yeah sure, Steve and Eric sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes BLUEDOT in a baby carriage.

Apple and Google are not working the spectrum together. If they were, Google would not have released BLUEDOT in front of Apple like that.

I gotta run, I think I see black helicopters.

Vic | Nov 30, 2007 | 7:16PM

I don't think Stephenson's announcement will hurt iPhone sales at all. 90% of the people out there aren't techheads and couldn't tell a 3g network from the old analog network. So, they're going to buy (or give for the holidays) an iPhone based on the hype.

In addition, most people see a phone (even a smartphone) as a limited-time investment; in two years they'll get another one.

Rory Wohl | Nov 30, 2007 | 9:16PM

Well, we're talking about an industry that claimed if phone numbers were transferable, that it would collapse.

Leo Klein | Nov 30, 2007 | 10:44PM

As much as I hate Steve-Personality-Disorder-Jobs this article makes me afraid Google won't win the auction because these cell phone companys understand it is life or death if they do not win. Their business model is shot if Google wins. The will bleed out quickly. Hope it would be a violation if they band together to bid! ...because if I were in their shoes that is EXACTLY what I would be wishing to do!

Fred | Dec 01, 2007 | 12:35AM

Rather than simply torpedoing iPhone sales, this can also be seen as targeting anyone considering any other brand of smartphone for the holidays. For those already wanting an iPhone, Apple/SBC will still get almost all that revenue, just a few months later. For everyone considering anything else (esp. because of "slow network"), now they have a reason to wait.

So it's not so much of a "screw Apple" as "screw all the rest of you - and Merry Xmas!"

That said, it may also prompt Steve to stop bringing lube to the AT&T meetings.

I'm *being* more just can't see it from there.

Bruce | Dec 01, 2007 | 2:42AM

I think the author is correct, but Jobs is once again missing the point in trying to secure a monopoly. I have an Iphone. I planned to wait for the second generation and 3G, but lost my razor and replaced it with an Iphone. I like the Iphone, though its internet is a joke - the other features make it a good fit. If Iphone becomes only compatable with an Apple service I will have to dump the Iphone and go back to the razor. My company won't dump its few hundred AT&T connected - non-Iphone - cell units to join an Apple monopoly. That is also why we don't have Macs on our desks.

mwc | Dec 01, 2007 | 2:47AM

I agree that the timing of the AT&T exec's announcement was very odd. Maybe a 3G iPhone will be ready sooner than everyone (including Steve Jobs) initially projected, and maybe this is why Apple had to drop the price of the current (2G) iPhone sooner than anyone expected. Perhaps Apple ran the numbers and decided they needed to unload all the current iPhones more quickly -- before the 3G version ships.

I've also been wondering if the 2G phone can or will be upgraded to a 3G version, and I also wonder if the internal SIM cards can be swapped out by Apple if someone wants to legally change networks down the road (after the AT&T exclusive expires).

HD Boy | Dec 01, 2007 | 3:36AM

On the "my digital life" blog, it was written (In September):

Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, has confirmed that there is a 3G iPhone in the works and it should be ready by 2008. Jobs made the following statement at the “Mum is no longer the word” press conference at the Regent Street Apple store in London this week:

“You can expect a 3G iPhone later next year… We are working on the next iPhone already, the one after that and the one after that.”

So, where's the news? What is ATT saying now that Jobs hasn't already said?

no news | Dec 01, 2007 | 4:30AM

I can almost see the steam rising over Steve Job's desk at Apple. The ground in Silicone Valley may yet open and swallow the AT&T PResident. If I were he, I'd get on my private jet and out of there quickly. Here are the facts - NONE of the US carriers offered a combo of a fast data network and globally compatible technology. AT&T was as close as anyone. But close only. They really thought that Jobs & Co could or would stop looking for other ways to make money - like owning their own spectrum and rolling out iPhone II Network Version -featurning VOIP from your handset anywhere on the globe. And no per minute fees even if you are ringing a mobil in Abu Dahbi or a portable in Princeton. AT&T is a money-grubbing monolithic corporation who doesn't give a damn about customers, service, value, or honesty. They just want you to order their mediocre services, pay premium prices for them, give them a card number to charge the monthly bill to, and then for heaven's sake, JUST leave them alone until your contract is up.

That's all they want. Lots of money for little effort and lousy service. Exactly what got a federal court to break up the Bell System many years ago. Things do not change all that much, do they?

Jobs and Co have somewhat loftier dreams. Even as he turns 50, those guys still have their dreams and their sense of what is right/fair/decent and what is not.

Not a good fit and never has been. I'm surprised the public didn't hear about the infighting before this point in time.

Mark in LA | Dec 01, 2007 | 4:49AM

Cringely, Businessweek carried the prediction that Apple is eyeing spectrum back in mid/early september .. when exactly did you make that prediction? What's the dated url to it.


Alpha | Dec 01, 2007 | 6:44AM


Long time reader, first time poster... I've got two points:
1)As a long time "Machead", I've learned that most computer users don't read sites like this or other tech sites and will miss this "news" completely. And if they do hear/see it, may not see the significance. I can't see Suzi college coed seeing this and going "Phew, I'll wait til whenever for that 3G speed!"
2)I'm holding off until '08 for an iPhone for a few reasons, none of which is the 3G network. First ATT takes over my cell provider Jan 1, so then I'll be able to use one. Second, I am assuming that Apple will be upgrading the iPhone early in '08, rather than later. As one of the earlier posters commented, SJ has already said that the next iPhone will be 3G and have other nice upgrades. In addition, by lowering the price on the 1st iPhone, Apple has set the price point for future models if they follow their computer pricing. So I'll pay less or the same and get more. I'm really waiting for more storage as well.
In the meantime, my Treo 680 will hold me over.

I do find this bidding on the 700mhz spectrum a very interesting topic, especially with all the parties involved. Now that you believe Apple is going to join with Google (a Natural fit), ATT can't be at all happy. If Google/Apple do win the bid, I think that will be better for the consumers as a whole, just the threat that G/A could be competing will force cell providers to step up and take better care of their consumers.

Matt in Minnesota | Dec 01, 2007 | 6:56AM

Not for nothing, but Steve even already stated that there would be a 3G iPhone, and he said to expect it late next year. Quoted at the London Apple Store opening back in September. This isn't new. Even though there have been all sorts of conspiracy theories about Apple's plans with iPhones and EDGE/3G, it's pretty simple right now:

EDGE is ubiquitous on the AT&T network. If you want data access, EDGE support is a no-brainer.

With the minor upgraded to EDGE that AT&T did over the spring and summer, the iPhone is improved, and so are the other EDGE devices (like the Treo 680, for instance) that they sell.

Right now, most of the 3G chipsets are still relatively bulky and high-power - by 2008 that should change.

3G support isn't built out yet on much of the AT&T network.

Seriously, these aren't the toughest tea leaves to read. By the time AT&T builds out their network for 3G, Apple will be ready to use it. If Apple's contract gives them an opening to play in 700, they'll do that as well.

Josh | Dec 01, 2007 | 8:45AM

Here's Bob's earlier prediction (and there may others earlier) 9/14/07 (mid-September).

Roy | Dec 01, 2007 | 9:43AM

Does this announcement mean a lawsuit to void the 5 year exclusive contract? I can't imagine Apple signing any contract with anybody without a non-disclosure clause.

michael | Dec 01, 2007 | 10:07AM

Just the usual posturing woffle larded over with self-important prognostications which anyway have been common chatter for months.
But we have to wait until halfway down the page for a Robert X Cringely spiteful little nugget...

"Steve always hurts his friends to see how much they really love him"

I suppose we should be grateful that he restricted himself to one such example of small mindedness but to me it undermines any serious points in the article.
I expect Bob's thick skin shields him from common perception as much as it blinds him to the all too obvious fact that business is business, except where Apple is concerned - and then special rules apply.
I,Cringely comments rule 1:No profanity or personal attacks, please.... pity the reciprocal doesn't apply.

ardaz | Dec 01, 2007 | 10:29AM

Hm, quite a leak there. Seeing as how Jobs said the same thing in public at a UK Apple store back in September. He must be pissed that someone heard him and is repeating it.

b | Dec 01, 2007 | 10:39AM

Now Ars is reporting* that the delay of iPhone 2 (2G gets confusing as it mirrors wireless network nomenclature) from spring to summer/fall is causing overages in the NAND/Flash sector.

Fox Mulder, no doubt, would think this a clever way to make people think iPhone 2 is further off than AT&T hinted, getting them back on the holiday buying track (rather than the more obvious product development cycle reasons, or even the fact that iPhone 2 has yet to be official release dated anyway).


Rener | Dec 01, 2007 | 10:55AM

What AT&T said isn't quite what Apple has said a few months ago. Apple said that current 3G chipsets drew too much power, but that lower power chipsets were coming next year, which is a fairly broad statement that tells people that Apple is improving the product over time. AT&T said that AT&T and Apple were going to release a 3G iPhone soon, which is a very specific statement that tells people to wait a few months to buy an iPhone. It gave me Osborne flashbacks.

laird popkin | Dec 01, 2007 | 11:01AM

I'll buy an iPhone when I can choose my own carrier and use VoIP when I have access to WiFi. Probably not until. Never while AT&T is my only choice.

MikefM | Dec 01, 2007 | 2:03PM

"Apple will be joining Google in bidding"

Can you provide proof?

Tom | Dec 01, 2007 | 3:11PM

"You can expect a 3G iPhone later next year... We are working on the next iPhone already, the one after that and the one after that."

Steve Jobs, Regent Street Apple store in London, September, 2007

Also. Apple isn't partnering with Google for the 700mhz spectrum. Google's press release stated they had no partners. When Apple "joined in", they stated their intention to compete with Google for that 700mhz bid.

Looks like all of your arguments are shot.

You're a little too late | Dec 01, 2007 | 4:30PM

It's the iPhone, stupid...carriers are secondary.

Bob Forsberg | Dec 01, 2007 | 5:13PM

Wouldn't there have been confidentiality clauses in the Apple/ATT contract?

Johno | Dec 01, 2007 | 6:22PM

In the past few months there has been quite a bit of ground-level speculation in my circles of iPhone upgrades for the Japanese mobile market and some discussions of a radio-section redesign for 3G available in North America by sometime in mid- to late-2008. For 2008 and beyond, a technological defining-point like the iPhone limited to only the quarter-century-old GSM standard seemed deeply absurd to us. AT&T's statement right before Christmas appears to be ill-timed for near-term marketing, but in a longer-term perspective seems quite kind and honest--the smarter among us already knew or guessed the 3G iPhone was right around the corner. This also ultimately helps Apple's future image and future customer satisfaction by reducing sales of prematurely obsolete iPhones right now.

esmith512 | Dec 01, 2007 | 6:28PM

I'm one of those people that remember what the Carter phone decision created for good old Western Electric. AT&T and the operating companies came up with plenty of excuses. I was lucky enough to be with a start up back then that beat them. We targeted the financial community and won. That company has been bought and sold several times but remains #1 in the space today. I could not agree with you more on AT&Ts strategy but you will see a few good competitors beat them at their game.

Courtney Benson | Dec 01, 2007 | 7:27PM

Regarding vulnerable wireless phone networks, I have to ask: What about ham and CB radio? Nobody owns the network and anybody can make communication devices that use these frequencies. From what Verizon and the other cartel members are saying, you'd think such a thing would be impossible, or at the very least a sign of the impending apocalypse. Yet these unowned networks exist with real freedom for device makers and have existed for years.

Bruce McL | Dec 02, 2007 | 1:30AM

Bravo to ATT for telling it like it is. Form follows function and the function is reliable wireless networking devices that can really advance videography.

iPhone is a cute but gutless gizmo. It's feature set will be widely emulated and distributed by other manufacturers in 2008 and they will be running HUSPA not EDGE.

Bob Kiger | Dec 02, 2007 | 4:17AM

Steve Jobs himself said the same thing a few months ago.

This is no secret mumbo-jumbo that Cringely cracks it to be.

Alok | Dec 02, 2007 | 6:09AM

Even if Stephenson is trying to hurt Apple, what's the point? Since Apple is spreading iPhone revenues out over 24-months, people who wait for the 3G will just start their 24 month period a few months later.

Chris Adamson | Dec 02, 2007 | 8:19AM

While I understand what you are saying, I don't think AT&T has ingratiated itself to Jobs by announcing this, and while AT&T might think they don't need Apple, but they do. I think Jobs is simply not going inform AT&T about new versions of the iPhone. AT&T, like the rest of us, will likely learn about next generation iPhones when they are filed with the FCC.

Ian | Dec 02, 2007 | 9:06AM

Apple is releasing iPhone in Australia in 2008 and the whole country is 3G and a lot of Asia as well

John F | Dec 02, 2007 | 9:27AM

"You can expect a 3G iPhone later next year... We are working on the next iPhone already, the one after that and the one after that."

Steve Jobs, Regent Street Apple store in London, September, 2007

Michael Long | Dec 02, 2007 | 10:38AM

The average consumer just isn't paying attention to a "slip" -- this won't have an effect on sales at all. If people have the means and have planned to get an iPhone for a present, they will not let this sway them even if they hear it. It's super vague (sometime next year, oh please) -- they want to give the über-Gift this year -- and people getting the Über aren't going to be complaining neither.

JGowan | Dec 02, 2007 | 4:07PM

If Stephenson consciously slowed AT&T sales to discipline Jobs for an imagined slight (Google HAS said they're bidding alone), his board should replace him. Even if he has some other "good" reason to ding Jobs, it's a major escalation to take spats public. It makes you look untrustworthy, which scares customers, vendors (Apple) and grownups (the Board) equally.

So I think he simply thought he was trying to take credit for some future improvements, where Apple is now getting all the glory.

I'd be delighted to see AT&T, Verizon or anybody else try to forestall competition by buying up all the spectrum. Even the industry lapdog FCC is beginning to get it -- that they have made US wireless a laughingstock of the world and every monopoly / oligopoly dollar the Telcos make is costing the rest of us two or three times that. I'm sure we'll see more and more competition.

Walt French | Dec 02, 2007 | 4:42PM

If Apple does bid for the 700 MHz specrum (and wins), then I agree that an IP data network would be the most likely result. I think this is what Google will do with the spectrum anyway. They could not establish a conventional phone network without interconnect agreements and becoming a telco themselves.

More on this line of thought at: America’s New Phone Company: Ma-Google?

Rusty | Dec 02, 2007 | 10:45PM

I relish AT&T and Verzion duopoly grip on everything wireless coming to an end. My only question is how fast will a disruption to the existing status quote take place? Is this a up to five year plan or a five plus year plan? How long can Verizon appearance of motion work before it really has to adjust it's business model?

TJGodel | Dec 03, 2007 | 9:17AM

Jobs said back in Sept. that a 3G phone will be coming in '08 ( so how does AT&T's confirmation now of the same thing send a message to Apple?

You are correct about the chilling effect on customers, though. I am waiting for the faster iPhone before I decide to buy, but I made that decision well before AT&T's statement.

KBrown | Dec 03, 2007 | 12:43PM

Naw, this isn't AT&T getting back at Apple. This is just AT&T being stupid. If AT&T really wanted to get back at Apple, they'd role out their own well designed 3G phone like Verizon did with the LG Voyager.

Then they could tell their customers, you could buy that iPhone with slow network access, but we also have this high speed iPhone like phone that also plays music and browses the Web, but with a much faster network connection!

Oh, and unlike the iPhone, this other neat looking phone comes with a $100 rebate for signing up to a 2 year contract. That would be "getting back at Apple".

Instead, Jobs is going to spend the rest of his days reeking vengeance on AT&T. Sure, there will still be an iPhone, and ATT has an exclusive 5 year contract (if ATT survives that long).

Jobs may simply put in a few more improvements into the iPod touch. It's not a phone, but a mere data device. Why not a microphone for the take voice notes module he'll now include. Oh, and since the iPod touch doesn't work over a phone network, you can download all the applications you want. Hey, look! There's a VOIP application.

David W. | Dec 03, 2007 | 1:26PM

People that can't spell 'wreak' or know the difference between 'Role' and 'Roll' are not allowed to make posts accusing anyone of being stupid.

RealityCheck | Dec 03, 2007 | 7:03PM

Finally someone says something insightful. There is a HUGE open space for a good, free-intl-calls, VOIP phone. Apple either fills that space or loses it to someone else entirely. "Long-distance" is an anachronism, a concept of the last century. In 12 months we should be able to have in a single device a cell phone, a free voip phone, a 5MP camera, a GPS, an mp3/media player, etc. The Nokia N95 does all of that, but it´s a pain to use. Either Apple or Android have higher chances of bringing something like this up.

Alex Linhares | Dec 03, 2007 | 7:44PM

I don't see where you get this idea that Apple is going to bid on the 700MHz spectrum. I can see that Stephenson is pissed at Apple, but Steve Jobs pisses a lot of people off (see the comment about Universal CEO Morris, above). This may have nothing to do with Apple's 700MHz intentions at all.

Whatever happens, if a non-telecom wins that spectrum auction, all hell is going to break loose in the now-cozy mobile telecom field. I'll be happy if that happens, regardless of any real-world results. I just like to watch clueless CEO's rant and squirm.

If it were up to me, I'd let Sascha Meinrath or Harold Feld design the network. Anyone else probably has some vested corporate interest, etc. Of course, those non-profit folks don't have billions of dollars "in reserve" for these types of spectrum auctions.
Why are our public airwaves being auctioned away by a non-democratically elected Commission? The FCC, in the age of software-defined radios is ridiculous and quaint. They should be next on "dinosaur watch".

Shun | Dec 03, 2007 | 8:20PM

Jobs himself said 3G iPhones would be coming in 2008. I don't see how AT&T's statement is "news", much less something to work up a conspiracy theory over.

Craig Hunter | Dec 03, 2007 | 9:52PM

Contrary to the conspiracy theories, Apple is not foot-dragging on the iPhone SDK. The reason we don't have it now is because it's not *ready*.

When the iPhone project began, Objective-C didn't have garbage collection, it didn't have properties, it didn't have a slew of other features that appeared in Objective-C 2.0, which are going to make life a lot easier for Mac and iPhone developers.

There's a substantial difference between what Apple can use internally for iPhone development, (where all the users of an API are a short walk away from the teams that write the libraries) and what they'll promise to *support* when third-party developers are using it.


John C. Randolph | Dec 03, 2007 | 10:31PM

Greetings Robert Cringely,

If you are the same Robert Cringely that was one of the first Apple employees (badge #6?), and you were in the documentary about the beginnings of the computer industry, then I really like your writing and the way you think & communicate. It is very enjoyable to read your articles and hear interviews with you.

Yes, there is a "but". It is similar to a newborn, it is a very small "but". I have a burr in my saddle about using words in the wrong way from their definition. Language is one of the things that holds our society together, and we must not change word definitions on a whim.

What I am referring to is your use of the word "obsolete" is talking about the iPhone. You mentioned that when the new 3G phone is released, it will make the existing model iPhones "obsolete". How is this even possible? I have looked up the definition of "obsolete" in a few different dictionaries and none even come close to stating that it means how you used it in the iPhone article. It means -

no longer used, no longer in use, out of date, grown old, worn out, out of fashion, old-fashioned, behind the times, antiquated, old, dated, archaic, ancient, fossilized, extinct, defunct, dead, bygone, no longer in use or valid, outdated equipment, the condition of being no longer of use due to passage of time
• Almost or entirely absent
• Old or out of date

ob·so·lete adj.
1. No longer in use:

noncurrent - not current or belonging to the present time

To become obsolete; to go out of use

outdated equipment, no longer used; out-of-date

I know we hear that computers are obsolete they day you purchase them, or at least the day a new one comes out. Well, how does this nonsense line up with the definition? That would mean that 99% of cars on the road are obsolete. 99% of computers are too! If this is true, then obsolete is not a bad thing. True obsolescence is when products are no longer supported, like 8 Track tapes, 78 RPM records, maybe those 5 inch floppy discs we all used in our 1st computers. Did VHS tapes become obsolete the day DVD's were introduced? No, but I look forward to the day that VHS is obsolete! Dial telephones may be obsolete, in favor of touch tones.

In no way will current iPhones be obsolete the day the 3G iPhones start shipping.

ob·so·lete adj.
1. No longer in use

I still use my MacBook Pro 2.4 GHz, even though a 2.6 GHz is shipping now. In fact, my wife uses a Mac G4 Sawtooth that runs just fine for all the emails, internet and bill paying she can do!

Let's be accurate is our word use! Thanks so much for letting me rant about such a trivial matter. The particular misuse of this word is one of the few bees in my bonnet! Keep up your great work!

Martin Simmons | Dec 05, 2007 | 12:18PM


When I read the article, the word obsolete got my attention too. What Bob said is very common when is referred to computers and is part of the American consumerism that has spread around the world.

He meant, as everybody understood, not up-to-date.

In the reality, we do not need all the features of a car, a computer or a phone, but we like when we have them.

I live in Brasil, with s, and I do not even ever had a mobile phone -because I like to go to the toilet alone- but I would admit to buy an iPhone if it comes at a reasonable price down here (where usually we pay almost twice for the Apple computers than the Americans -probably because we make so much less money for the equivalent work).

If the iPhone arrives here before I got tired of waiting, I would not complain if it was the current one. What one has to complain is the marriage sale.

Just to give you an idea of our prices, people are buying unlocked iPhones for US$ 900.

If Steve continues to get an exclusive carrier for each country to sell the iPhone, we will have the iPhone clones here before the original.

Best regards,

Jorge Lucas (the guy from Rio Grande do Sul)

Jorge Lucas | Dec 06, 2007 | 12:15PM

I think the word you'd prefer is "obsolescent" -- in process of becoming obsolete but still operational, although that's too severe to describe the current iPhone, which would cease to be the fastest iPhone if a 3G version came out. It will become simply "last year's model" or "the slower one." I still use a ten-year-old analogue cellphone that is definitely obsolescent. It will become obsolete next September when the local analogue network is decomissioned. I'm hoping that by then the iPhone will be available in Canada at less-than-crippling data rates.

Stuart | Dec 07, 2007 | 11:48AM

Mr. Cringley,

What do you mean Verizon's certification process is probably years away? Everyone knows Verizon is the MOST rigorous in their specification standards, which is why it takes the longest for new phones to be released by them.

Just look at the linux phone, which has been around for a while but finally released to US markets by Motorola in the form of their latest Razr phones branded V8 by T-Mobile and Sprint which began offering them in September, to Verizon's bastardization of the same Razr phone which strips the hardware of its linux OS to be replaced by their proprietary one that features the CDMA standard instead, which they are branding the Razr v9.

It's why as soon as my contract is up with VZW I plan to switch to a more forward thinking company that is not afraid of open standards.

arias | Dec 11, 2007 | 11:42AM

Are you kidding me? Why would a telecom carrier NOT want devices to work on their network? Subscribers are key. Right now, most carriers subsidize phone purchases by quite a bit in order to obtain new subscribers. The drawback to this is that they must lock them into a plan to break even. But if someone walks up and said "I have a phone, I want to pay you a monthly fee" - they would be insane not to take them.

Brian | Dec 12, 2007 | 10:56PM