Apple says Yes to Optus for the iPhone

Will Telstra be next?

The lack of certainty surrounding exactly who will bring the iPhone to Australia, and what model will be released here, has been clarified a little further today with an announcement by Optus that it too has signed an agreement to bring the iPhone to Australia.

An Apple spokesperson said the company is "excited to be working with SingTel, Globe and Optus to bring the iPhone to Australia later this year, and we can't wait to get this revolutionary phone in the hands of even more people around the world", but could not offer any additional information.

Last week, Vodafone announced that it had an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone down under, offering no specific launch date or model type, amid speculation the provider had an exclusive deal with Apple.

Apart from stating it would supply the product, Optus would not elaborate on the deal.

According to Robin Simpson, research director for mobility and wireless at analyst firm Gartner, the announcement by Optus comes as little surprise.

"It's totally expected, everybody noticed that Vodafone didn't claim an exclusive. I suspect that Vodafone announced it so early just to get a public relations coup, and I imagine they probably annoyed Apple in the process. Apple likes to stage manage these things and prefers to be involved in the announcement.

Instead of addressing 20 percent of the Australian market, now with Optus they have got about 40 percent

"The suprising thing is that we haven't heard from Telstra yet, and I still expect that we will," Simpson said.

Despite rumours Vodafone may have had an exclusive deal to sell the iPhone here, Simpson believes Apple is right in changing its business model in regards to distributing the iPhone.

"It was good having exclusive carriers [Apple uses AT&T exclusively in the US] for the first year because we're talking about a vendor that's never been in the mobile phone market and the mobile phone market is totally controlled by operators in relation to distribution. So if they wanted to play they really had to do something attractive to the first operators who got involved, therefore [an] exclusive [deal] made sense," he said.

But now Apple is cashing in on the iPhone's gaining global popularity, looking to maximise its sales through all possible channels.

"Instead of addressing 20 percent of the Australian market [with Vodafone], now with Optus they have got about 40 percent," Simpson said.

While no details have been released by either Vodafone, Optus or Apple on what model iPhone and pricing structure will be available, Simpson expects to see it sold for one price locked in to a carrier, and another more expensive unlocked version.

"We don't know that yet, but there will certainly be some competition and that's good.

"I suspect that we might get some subsidy as well because this is about churning customers; in the Australian market we've got over 100 percent penetration of mobile phones, and if you are an operator the only thing you can do to get more customers is churn them from someone else so everybody is going to be looking at ways of making their deal more attractive than the other guy," Simpson said.

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Andrew Hendry

Computerworld
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