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Saturday, June 04, 2011, 07:40 pm PT (10:40 pm ET)

AT&T boss hints at work on Apple's new SIM card format

AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview this week that a smaller SIM card is a "no-brainer" and his company is looking into it, but declined to make the direct connection to Apple that the France Telecom CEO made last week.

When asked by All Things D's Ina Fried whether AT&T is interested in the smaller SIM card that Apple and France Telecom have reportedly agreed upon, de la Vega acknowledged that the carrier is "working with the industry" to look at the possibility of smaller SIM cards. "I think that probably will happen," he said.

In late May, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said in an interview that Apple and wireless carriers had reached a compromise to use a smaller SIM card format instead of an embedded SIM chip that Apple had expressed interest in. According to Richard, the next iPhone will be "smaller and thinner," partially due to a reduction in the SIM card footprint.

According to another executive at Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, Apple in May submitted a new requirement for a smaller SIM form factor to a European standards institute. The iPhone 4 and iPad currently utilize a micro-SIM solution.

Like Richard, de la Vega expressed a preference for a smaller SIM card over an embedded SIM. "We think that making the card smaller and shrinking the size is a no-brainer and we should be able to make that happen," he said, in response to a question about the possibility of an e-SIM.

During the interview, de la Vega expressed disappointment at Windows Phone sales. “We actually like [Windows Phone 7] very, very much,” he said. “It hasn’t sold as well as Microsoft or us would want it to.”

Despite the lackluster sales, the AT&T chief remained optimistic about Microsoft's prospects. "I think for the first thing out of the chute it is pretty good,” he said. “I think they just need to make it better… Giving customers more application choices, having a bigger app store with more functionality on the phone–I think that is all that it needs.”

For de la Vega, the iPhone and Google's Android have been "positive surprises," while sales of Research in Motion's devices have dropped off. "Android and Apple are really the hot products right now," he added, noting that customers have been "choosing other products rather than traditional BlackBerries."

The executive also challenged tablet makers to continue to raise standards in order to compete with Apple's iPad. According to de la Vega, all the manufacturers who make smartphones are also offering AT&T tablets. "The question is which ones of those are good enough to stand up to the iPad. That’s a very high bar," he said.

Speaking at the D9 conference earlier this week, de la Vega confirmed that AT&T is working on a shared data plan that would allow users to pool minutes and data plans between devices.