Forbes: Apple to Become a Mobile Virtual Network Operator

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Date: Monday, July 18th, 2005, 07:22
Category: Mobile Phone

Apple iPhone ConceptIn an article for Forbes, Everybody In The Pool, David M. Ewalt discusses the possibility of Apple launching a mobile phone company providing cellular and data services piggybacking on Sprint’s national cellular network. Read More…


Apple iPhone ConceptIn an article for Forbes, Everybody In The Pool, David M. Ewalt discusses the possibility of Apple launching a mobile phone company providing cellular and data services piggybacking on Sprint’s national cellular network.

This way of doing business in the mobile market, known as the “mobile virtual network operator,” or MVNO, is an increasingly popular and successful model for all different kinds of companies. In December, Disney subsidiary ESPN launched its own mobile network, offering consumers custom sports news and multimedia. Internet service provider Earthlink did the same in October, targeting high-end users who like to use their phones for e-mail and data access. And since its launch in 2002, the Virgin Group’s youth-centric Virgin Mobile USA has surged to over three million subscribers, and a public offering is reportedly in the works for later this year.
The leap to wireless could be even easier for Apple, since it already specializes in making cool, user-friendly handheld gadgets, and has sold over 15 million iPod music players to date. With each new generation of the devices, Apple has added features like more memory and color screens. It makes sense that the company would want to merge two devices already in consumers’ pockets, combining a cell phone and a music player.
In July 2004, Apple announced it would partner with handset maker Motorola in making a version of its iTunes software to run on Motorola phones. The software has been delayed but is expected to be made available soon. Observers say the companies also might have collaborated on a new hybrid iPod phone. Apple has no comment on the rumors, but Jobs has been enthusiastic about the cellular marketplace. “The mobile phone market…is a phenomenal opportunity to get iTunes in the hands of even more music lovers around the world,” he said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Read More at Forbes.com.
We’ve been talking about the iPhone here at the PowerPage for a while now and I’ll believe it when I see it. Despite what my jaded ass thinks about it, there are a couple of benefits to an Apple-branded mobile phone service:
- It would allow Apple to offer an exclusive iTunes music experience on a mobile phone that wouldn’t be available on other providers.
- They’d receive additional revenue from selling music to phones from the ITMS.
- If the experience is good enough customers will consolidate their current phone/ipod combo into a single phone/player iPhone-type device, selling more units.
- Apple can also make the service available to PowerBook users. Remember back in December 2003 we reported on an Apple high-speed PC card that would run on AT&T’s high speed EDGE network? We’ve also heard various mentions over the years of PowerBooks shipping with built-in cellular chipsets and antennas providing true “anywhere access.”
There’s a distinct first-mover advantage to providing a mobile phone and music player combination that works right. If Apple can leverage their iPod experience and turn it into a cool iPhone they have the power to make lightening strike twice. Or would that be three times? The iPhone attachment concept for the iPod mini (pictured above) is from Applele’s Isamu Sanada.
Another interesting read on the topic is Russell Beattie’s Apple will launch a mobile phone within 18 months from November 2004.

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