Let's assume that the conventional wisdom comes to pass: AT&T loses its exclusivity as the iPhone's carrier, and Apple's smartphone is brought to Verizon Wireless' network as well. Naturally, Verizon customers who are also iPhone fans will celebrate the news, but in terms of the big players in this space, who stands to gain the most, and who stands to be left behind?
The spin-jockeying has already begun: AT&T is pre-emptively claiming that losing its exclusive grip on the iPhone won't hurt its revenue. On the heels of that, Motorola floated the idea that it will benefit if the iPhone goes to Verizon. Both are likely wrong.
Apple and Verizon, meanwhile, are staying fairly quiet, perhaps because they have nothing to be defensive about because they both stand to be the big winners in this scenario. Apple gets to sell iPhones to a whole new set of consumers, and Verizon gets to pick up a whole bunch more subscribers.
However, as Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Gartner, points out, these aren't unalloyed wins. Both companies have to carefully manage their positioning. Apple, for example, has to be wary about what it claims the iPhone can do. "Remember those ads Apple ran about the ability to do things like look up a movie time while you're talking to your buddy?" says Golvin. "No can do that on [Verizon's] network." (Back in the spring, Verizon was rumored to be making upgrades to its network to allow for simultaneous voice and data usage, but nothing has come to fruition yet.)
Verizon, meanwhile, has to carefully manage its relationship with Google. During its war with AT&T, Verizon backed the Droid as being superior to the iPhone (recall the "Droid does" ad campaign). If Verizon welcomes its erstwhile competitor, does that make Droid and its Google Android OS also-rans?