How Apple could rock wireless:
Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and LG might be secretly rooting for the
Apple phone to be a (minor) hit.
By Stephanie Mehta, Fortune senior writer
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- If Steve Jobs' Apple decides to build a wireless
phone, as widely rumored, the company has the chance to shake up not
just the wireless device business -- an industry dominated by the
likes of Motorola and Nokia -- it also could upend the entire wireless
distribution model in the United States.
We know very little about the Apple's plans for a cell phone. Apple
(Charts) isn't talking ("We don't comment on rumor and speculation," a
spokesman told me) but we do know that wireless represents a huge
opportunity -- and threat -- for Apple, and every other consumer
electronics and computer maker.
Wireless phone makers increasingly are adding MP3 players to their
devices, with the capability to download songs over the air. It
certainly makes sense for Apple to want a piece of this action.
How Apple makes this happen is a topic of great swirl in tech and
telecom circles. UBS telecom analyst John Hodulik recently published a
report positing that Apple would seek to become a virtual phone
company, buying airtime wholesale from Cingular and reselling wireless
service, along with its new phone, sometime in the first quarter of
Other rumors have Apple building a phone with built-in Wi-Fi service
that would allow customers to make calls and download data and music
from the free or cheap Wi-Fi networks proliferating in urban and
suburban settings, bypassing traditional cellular networks. Both
scenarios underscore Jobs' aversion to ceding control to telcos such
as Cingular, Verizon (Charts), T-Mobile and Sprint (Charts), which
exercise huge control over the entire wireless food chain in the U.S.