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October 9, 2006

T-Mobile USA and Apple?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 11:50 AM

NEW YORK -- If you have missed them, I've written two fairly comprehensive stories out of the press conference that T-Mobile USA and its parent, Deutsche Telekom, held on Friday here.

You can read about the Bellevue company's plans for rolling out a 3G broadband network here, and you can read a rare interview with T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson here.

Now, there's something else that just didn't seem to fit anywhere in the coverage that may still be of some interest to you. Already, I see rumors flying about Dotson's comments -- sometimes characterized as "at some length" -- about Apple.

So here's the complete story.

In Dotson's prepared comments for the press conference, he mentioned Apple. He was talking about how e-mail may be a killer application for the mobile phone because only 5 percent of current consumer e-mail is accessed through a mobile phone.

"And as can be seen with Apple's new Leopard operating system -- the richness of the e-mail communications is just beginning to discover elements beyond the printed word ... -- moving to dynamic and personally tailored image-rich communications."

Then, he dropped the interesting statistic that 30 percent of the Web browsing traffic on T-Mobile Sidekick devices was to MySpace.com.

That was it.

Or at least until a reporter asked whether T-Mobile was working closely with Apple, and could perhaps be working any products with them. I emphasize that the reporter did not even ask specifically about speculation of an "iPhone" that Apple may be developing.

Dotson's response: "I won't speak specifically to one area." But he said he highlighted Apple because it is a sign of where the marketplace is going, especially with 3G.

"No one is on the forefront of understanding consumers more on the desktop services [than Apple], " he said, adding that if you look at Apple's forthcoming operating system, you can see how it is changing the e-mail experience to match consumer behavior today. The Leopard system integrates video and voice into usually text-only e-mail.

He finished his comments with: "It is a good precursor for how this marketplace will evolve and how you can start to make money on products and services in the mobile environment. That's why I highlighted Apple. We'll always continue to look at good strong brands we can leverage in social networking, and look for opportunities for a deployment on services on top of desktop applications, but I'm declining to say anything about a specific brand."

I wonder how Microsoft -- T-Mobile's neighbor -- feels about that statement more than I wonder about whether the iPhone will launch with T-Mobile. Microsoft, too, is launching a new operating system, which is supposed to have a lot of new multimedia functions.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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