Monday, January 15, 2007, 04:50 pm PT (07:50 pm ET)
Apple, Cingular claim victory over eachother, say more iPhones in queueApple, Inc. and iPhone partner Cingular last week engaged in a brief war of words over which company forced the other to change its business model, but nevertheless have both promised to collaborate on many more Apple-branded cellphones in the future.
While creating an impression of harmony on the surface, Apple and Cingular executives fueled a minor spat following the launch of iPhone last Tuesday, hinting that a power struggle ensued before the two came to terms on the project.
Igniting the controversy was Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who told TIME editor Lev Grossman that he had earned "special treatment" from Cingular, forcing a change in the cellular service provider's voicemail system to allow for iPhone's random-access voice message interface. In the same interview, Apple's iPod division headman Tony Fadell added that Cingular "broke all [its] typical process rules" to implement Apple's requests.
Jobs also claimed to have ducked around the arrogance prevalent amongst carriers, which regularly include proprietary applications or force feature changes upon users in order to protect their services. "There's some hubris, where they think they know better," Jobs said. "They dictate what's on the phone. That just wouldn't work for us."
The comments from Jobs triggered a surprisingly sharp rebuttal from Cingular national distribution president Glenn Lurie, who flatly denied that any concessions were made and implied that Jobs' assertions were little more than posturing. "I'm not sure we gave anything," Lurie stated. "I think they bent a lot."
Lurie similarly drew attention to the necessarily exclusive multi-year contract Apple signed with the American cell service that gives iPhone customers the "luxury" of requiring a Cingular subscription. Apple, he added, also agreed to help stop the "bad guys" who would unofficially unlock the iPhone or its SIM card for use on competing networks.
In spite of the apparent rift between the two companies, the Cingular exec was quick to make amends and hinted that the depth of the Apple-Cingular partnership would become clear soon. Several new Apple-branded phones may be "coming out very quickly," he said.
That allusion may help address complaints that iPhone's current limitation to EDGE mobile broadband would curb its appeal in the face of much faster HSDPA (or 3G) access, which Cingular already offers in a few key cities and through rival smartphones such as Samsung's BlackJack.
Jobs himself was already pointing towards future models in his keynote speech at Macworld San Francisco. He mentioned in passing that the company's choice of GSM network support via EDGE would allow it to produce a 3G wireless phone and "many other amazing things" in the near future.
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