Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple Orange iPhone

Apple is partnering with Orange. That exclusive, and potentially flavorful, partnership for the iPhone launch in France was announced Thursday by Orange Chief Executive Didier Lombard, according to a Reuters news report.

A spokesperson for the company has confirmed to the news service that Lombard announced the deal-signing at an industry event in Hanoi. No formal announcement has yet been posted on the Web sites of Apple, Orange, or Orange's parent company, France Telecom. A formal announcement is expected at the Apple Expo in Paris on Monday.

Orange Joins T-Mobile, O2

Earlier this week, Apple announced deals for carrier partnerships in the United Kingdom with O2 and in Germany with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile. Both of those launches are scheduled for November 9, but the launch date in France has not yet been released. According to some reports on the Web, the French launch will be November 29. Pricing has not yet been released.

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with industry research firm Jupiter Research, said that Apple's ability to find carrier partners to "do what it takes to be part of this ecosystem" has been "very impressive."

But he cautioned that European users, in France and elsewhere, have some different expectations of mobile phone usage. Subsidies of phone purchases by carriers are common, for instance, although Orange has told news outlets that it won't subsidize the iPhone.

Text messaging is also more widespread there. "Users will have to adjust to the lack of a physical keyboard" on the iPhone, he noted.

3G, EDGE, Wi-Fi

Another difference in Europe is a wider use of 3G. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that 3G impacts the device's battery life, and won't be available on the iPhone until at least next year. Wi-Fi networks can be used by the iPhone when available. Otherwise, the device relies on the slower EDGE for data transfers.

The selected carrier's ability to accommodate Wi-Fi was clearly one of the selection factors. France Telecom reportedly has about 2,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. In Germany, T-Mobile has about 8,600, and, with a worldwide total of about 20,000, was described by Apple as "the biggest Wi-Fi provider in the world."

In the UK, carrier O2 will need to spend millions of pounds to upgrade its network so that 30 percent of it can handle EDGE, according the Times Online, and a deal was struck with the Cloud for access to 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots there.

But there are also other challenges for Apple in Europe. For instance, this launch is taking place after hackers have come up with ways to unlock the iPhone and make it usable on other networks. Some observers have suggested that the door could now be open to widespread illegal use, but others note that Apple has at least one ace up its sleeve -- iTunes.

The online music service is becoming a central portal for iPhone activation and other communications with the customer, as well as providing one of the major values of the combined media player/phone/Internet viewer. The hacks are not expected to outlive firmware iPhone updates delivered through iTunes.

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