Ok, so I was thinking about the whole “Apple is getting a cut of AT&T’s revenue” thing, and I’m calling bullshit. It’s not what people think – at least, not that I can find anywhere. So again, bear with me.
Let’s check the facts:
- AT&T is sharing revenue from iPhone users with Apple
- Apple is booking revenue from iPhone sales over 24 months
- Apple patented the hell out of the iphone; everything from the interface to visual voicemail
And that’s where we come upon the real interesting bit: Visual Voicemail is a patented feature of an Apple product. It’s the only part of the iPhone that falls outside the GSM specs and it’s the only part that AT&T had to specifically build out for. AT&T built out for it because they wanted the iPhone, but can anyone imagine those assholes paying out over 24 months for the privilege of letting their customers use the iPhone? AT&T doesn’t care about their customers, and they never have. Look at the rest of their restrictive, expensive crap and tell me they care. Call them with a problem, and then, no, don’t call me, because I already know the rant you’re going to spew.
A fairly steep, rumored to be 10% of the revenue stream is paid to Apple. And given that Apple strong armed AT&T into unlimited data plans for effectively $20, I’m going to guess that Apple worked on the implementation tools for the AT&T Visual Voicemail servers after getting AT&T to agree to this payment. But what is the payment actually for? Use of Apple’s patented technology, that’s what.
And it’s why, even when the iPhone gets unlocked, it won’t ever work just right unless the carrier is paying out the ass to Apple for the patent rights to give users Visual Voicemail.
This idea isn’t the only way that the AT&T deal could work now, and I have no insider information on that at all. However, given the rumors that are coming out of the EU about how it’s going to launch there, you better believe that the only way Apple is going to let those carriers have the iPhone is for those carriers to license the Visual Voicemail technology that Apple has invented, patented, and developed.
Patents make the whole mess make sense. Crazy times, indeed.
I just read Paul Boutin’s article on Slate (tip via Gruber) comparing the Blackberry to the iPhone, and about halfway through he states, “The iPhone’s Visual Voicemail feature lets iPhone users scan a text list of all voicemail messages in their inbox and jump to any of them in any order. AT&T won’t let me do that on a BlackBerry. Neither will anyone else.”
Let me state it again: Apple owns this feature and technology, and licenses the patent to AT&T. Trust me, if AT&T could screw Blackberry out of more money by licensing this tech, they would. It’s AT&T’s way.