Here are more edited Q&A’s from my conversation last week with Glenn Lurie, AT&T president of national distribution and point on the iPhone partnership.
Q: Will the iPhone be competing not just with phones but Internet devices like the Nokia tablet and Ultra Mobile PCs?
A: I think our customers will tell us. With every device like this that’s a game-changer — and it’s well advanced of anything that’s on the maket — I think we’re going to find out how people decide to use it. We have our own ideas and our guesses, but as customers buy this device, experience it, they’re going to make those decisions as to what it is and we’ll learn as well.
Q: The iPhone seems to be raising the bar on interface design. We’re going to get a lot of exciting devices over the next year, chasing the iPhone or coming out simultaneously.
A: You’re absolutely right. We know this from the past. Whenever somebody brings out something new or something that is a leapfrog it causes more innovation from everybody else. I remember when the Motorola StarTac came out. It was 2000, it was this small flip-phone. I actually have one in my office, the original one. Well you picked that up and said, “Oh my gosh.” At that time it was a leapfrog. What did the other manufacturers do? Start making small, tiny little flips to try and catch up. In this case, what Apple’s done is going to raise the bar, it’s going to cause innovation throughout the industry which we all know is terrific for everybody.
Q: Can your network support a subscription service that would stream music to the iPhone?
A: Yes, but the device that’s being launched is not that, that’s not where we’re going. This is going to pull music on just like an iPod does.
Q: You’ll sync music from a computer.
A: Yes, it’s the same process you have today with an iPod Nano or Video or whatever. That’s the plan. Obviously, our networks can do lots of things as we launch HSDPA, 3G, etcetera, but with this particular product it’s going to be focused to work on our EDGE network, which is going to be great. All the music side stuff is going to be tethered.
Q: You’ve received some flack for choosing the EDGE network for the iPhone.
A: I think it’s interesting. Our network is terrific, the EDGE network is phenomenal. It’s the largest high-speed network in the country. Obviously, we also have this HSDPA network that’s growing as well, but this gives customers full coverage nationwide. The applications work terrific on EDGE. Like I said, when people get it in their hands and use it they will be very, very excited about how it works.
Q: The iPhone has other radios, including Wi-Fi. How will that work out?
A: Wi-Fi is a great partner for our network. Obviously, we’re part of AT&T, which is the largest seller of broadband services in the country; we see some synergies there. You walk into your home, this goes onto your Wi=Fi network at home for data — what a great experience for the customer. On the same front, when you walk out of your home, you want that contiguous coverage, you’ll be on our EDGE network on the data side. On the voice side, it’s always on our network.