When you buy one of Apple's [NADSAQ:AAPL] iPhone 3Gs, you're required to sign a new contract extending your allegiance to AT&T [NYSE:ATT] for two more years. Apparently Apple itself had to do the same thing when it negotiated a new deal with AT&T, extending exclusivity to AT&T for an additional year — til 2010. That extension hasn't been officially acknowledged, but it was heavily alluded to in an interview with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in USA TODAY.
So for those of us paying out the nose for an AT&T iPhone data plan, must we wait until 2010 for an inter-carrier price war? Perhaps not — if Google's Android phones can compete in terms of functionality, carriers will be tripping over themselves to make competitive data plans available, and that will have an effect on the iPhone plan price point.
The Stephenson interview also includes Steve Jobs, who makes an interesting assertion about Apple's brand strategy. He invokes the chair analogy, with one leg representing each core product. The first two are obvious: Mac and music (iTunes, iPod, etc.) The third leg, he says, is iPhone. The fourth, surprisingly, is Apple TV — a tepidly-received device that hasn't yet acheived nearly the success of the other three legs. If Steve sees Apple TV as being a viable sibling of monster successes like the iPod and iPhone, then perhaps we should be ready for some market-changing revisions to be made to the device in the next two years. For now, hang onto your TiVo.