A recent post from Bits, the New York Times’ technology blog, takes a look at the sudden upswing in advertisements from carriers AT&T and Verizon involving Windows Phones, instead of the usual spots promoting Apple and Android handsets. Why the sudden change of heart? The post suggests it’s the result of a struggle for power between the network giants and the smartphone giants.
Apple, which controls its smartphones, operating systems, and billing systems, increasingly leaves network operators out of the loop, profits-wise. It’s suggested that Verizon and AT&T are concerned that Google could start to do something similar once its purchase of Motorola Mobility is finalized. It’s suggested that the problem for the network giants is a loss of control of the “customer billing experience.” The Windows Phone OS doesn’t exert the same level of control, and is supposedly not perceived as as big of a threat as Google or Apple.
That might pale in comparison to another growing concern for network providers – becoming irrelevant. In addition to having a large amount of control over the user experience, Google and Apple have thriving app marketplaces, something the Windows Phone OS doesn’t quite enjoy yet. More and more often, cheap or free apps are being released that help users circumvent the need to use networks’ providers bandwidth, which, as the Bits post points out, is “all they have.” On top of that, Wi-Fi isn’t going to become any less popular. As Wi-Fi networks continue to grow in size, strength, and number, users will be less reliant on network providers. That’s not a trend that’s going to reverse, and it’s not a trend that favors Verizon or AT&T. For the time being, though, Windows Phones give the network giants the best chance at slowing the development of that trend.
But, how much will it really slow things down? Should the ad blitzes succeed, and make Windows Phones immensely more popular, it’ll only mean app developers will turn a more interested eye towards the Windows Phone OS. Add that to the increasingly close relationship between Nokia and Microsoft, and the grass on the other side suddenly doesn’t seem so green for AT&T and Verizon.
But, be careful before you go celebrating the possible demise of the not-very-popular Verizon and AT&T. Both companies have plenty of cash, and are surely not ignorant of these potential future problems with their business model. But, let’s say for a second that Verizon and AT&T take a turn southward. That might not be cause for celebration either. That leaves Google, Apple, and possibly Microsoft with total control of the mobile experience for users. That’s an awful big piece of the pie for just three companies, and it’s doubtful that will mean good things for consumers.