I have long thought that Apple is waiting for a carrier-agnostic model for their devices, but they've needed the industry to get to a point where it meets Apple's criteria for ease-of-use. I think the iPhone can almost be considered a stop-gap product, filling the void in time necessary for true wireless ubiquity to become a reality.
Make no mistake: Apple does not want to be in a relationship with AT&T, or any other wireless carrier for that matter. If they could operate their own network, they absolutely would. They are well aware of the tactics the cellular industry has adopted to limit device capabilities in the name of profit., and it doesn't fit with their approach.
All Apple really wants is their devices connected to a decent network. FaceTime is the key.
Why is FaceTime wifi only? Why are we reading rumors of FaceTime on iPod and iPad being linked to an email address and iTunes account? The answers are relatively simple...
- Apple doesn't want to create a strong association between FaceTime and a cellular network. They want you to think data network, not voice. Banish the thought that you are "calling" someone. And there's no way they're going to let AT&T's network issues impact their hottest new technology.
- Linking through an email address means you don't need a cellular phone number to route through. You just need an IP address and an iTunes account and you're set.
- The stage is being set for a much bigger audience. This holiday season is going to be all about FaceTime-capable iDevices. Christmas morning opening presents? Let's FaceTime grandma and show her how you look in that new sweater! Yeah, 'nuff said.
With iOS 4 offering multitasking capabilities, and background VoIP, the ecosystem is getting ready for an influx of data-driven communications. We all know it's just a matter of time before the iPod gets a camera. What if it got a 4G/LTE modem too? Would you need a cellular number any more if you could make and receive calls using Skype, and leave it running in the background on your iPod?
Which brings me back to Verizon. It's still going to be years before the networks are robust enough that this becomes a reality. But it's only a matter of time. And in the mean time, Verizon has what many consider to be the best network in the country, and they've said they're pursuing an Open Device Initiative (fwiw). It sure would be nice to have a camera-equiped iPod with a data-only connection to the best wireless network in the country.
It's all just speculation...but a kid can dream can't he?