Thursday, February 17, 2011

It is better to be though a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt

Wow, AT&T continues to impress with its seeming complete disconnection from reality.

Losing iPhone exclusivity?  No problem, they say.

Want 4G?  No problem.  We'll just call our 3G service 4G and it's all good.

And now, these comments from Randall Stephenson that platform-specific app stores are bad for customers.  Uhm, come again?  AT&T holds forth that their Wholesale Applications Community is a better idea.  For them, sure.

Let's break this down.

Consumers obviously hate the iOS App Store...10 billion times over (yes, that is billion).  Stephenson laments that customers will have to go to different app stores for different platforms.  Newsflash--most consumers only live on a single platform.  And I, for one, don't care about what Android apps are available since I have an iOS device.  Sure, this may get a bit more confused if people buy a tablet with Android and an iOS phone.

Stephenson wants the carriers to control the app stores, and for apps to be more generic, HTML5 versions that play nice across platforms.  The simple fact of the matter is that, at least for now, native apps are slicker than web apps, and can access more of the phone's capabilities.

The carriers had control of the app stores for a long time--until Apple's App Store, in fact.  I remember talk about having to get on the carrier's "deck" of apps that they shipped with a phone.  Well, they pretty much blew that opportunity by completely failing to innovate.  Now you don't need to work through the carrier to have a smartphone application, and the demand, usage and utility has soared.

App stores are a dramatically better way to discover new apps.  Hence the move to them on the desktop.

Telcos just are not good at rapid innovation--it is not in their DNA.  Nor would that definitely be a good thing.  Think about it.  The phone network has to work.  Bugs and downtime are major problems.  This is not Twitter crashing again, it is major panic time.  So telco engineers protect the functioning network above all.  Monkeying with new and exciting stuff has little upside.  That risk averse attitude permeates telcos.  It serves them well in their core business, but guarantees mediocrity when they expand beyond providing pipes.

So.....stay away from my app ecosystem, AT&T.  Make sure the tubes and pipes continue to work so the little gnomes that carry packets around the world can do their thing.

And don't say stupid things like the App Store is bad for consumers, when, very clearly, they think otherwise.  It is hard to think of when AT&T last did something that it own customers actually liked.  Maybe they are smoking that same shit at AT&T that Wall Street was toking a few years ago.

I chose to stay with AT&T for my mobile service because I like GSM.  I desperately want AT&T to get better, to give me more reasons to be happy with them.  But the stuff that they say continuously indicates that they are clueless.  Sigh.

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