from the in-God-Phone-We-Anti-Trust dept
What is most interesting here is the break from Apple's conventional one-country-one-carrier strategy, which has attracted the attention of more than a few countries' regulators. The Canadian case will be the first market where competing carriers offer the iPhone, without a regulator forcing Apple's hand. Perhaps Germany will follow Canada: there are rumors that T-Mobile will lose their exclusive deal with Apple by year's end, and British/Spanish carrier O2 will enter the market with preferable iPhone plans. In the USA, most of the hot water Apple is swimming in is because the FTC isn't happy with the iPhone app approval process, which nixed the Google voice app. But while the FTC branch is focused on the App Store, some Congressional Reps are voicing their displeasure at the exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T. Governments around the world aren't sure what to make of exclusive phone distribution deals - which, strangely, never seemed to raise an eyebrow until the iPhone. In France, the Orange-Apple 5-yr exclusive was smacked down by the feds who argued that an exclusive arrangement would add "a new element of rigidity in the sector which is already suffering from a lack of competition." But here's where I'm not so clear.
I agree that exclusives, when examined in isolation, are anti-competitive. But overall, I'm not clear on how a 2007 new entrant (Apple), with a disruptive device that lit a fire under the incumbent vendors, could be perceived as "anti-competitive" in terms of net results. In fact, the exclusivity has undeniably forced the competing carriers to work their butts off to come up with a comparable device, seeking it from the likes of Nokia, Samsung (which are scrambling to respond, though they'd never admit it), or newer players like HTC or INQ. The exclusive deals seem to be spurring competition. In contrast, in a world where every telco carries the iPhone, the telcos actually can worry less about offering something else that's equal or better. I suppose someday it could make sense to go after Apple exclusives, but why not wait until the net effect on society is actually negative in some measurable way? A good rule for government should be, "When in doubt, leave it alone."
Meanwhile, the Canadian case will certainly offer Canadians more choice among iPhone providers, and most notably iPhone plans. Canadians tasted the bitter flavor of inadequate competition when iPhone data plans were first announced there in mid 2008. Three-year contracts, no unlimited data plan, high per-MB pricing, and a triple lock-in. Yes, Canada may soon see more service competition around the iPhone -- but will Canada see more or less device competition?