Fascinating piece in the Observer this weekend, which I managed to read about midnight yesterday, where Orange CEO Tom Alexander was positively purring about the network’s deal to sell the iPhone.
“Owning that space – that mobile is more than voice and text, it’s multimedia – is part of the plan and the missing ingredient in that was of course the iPhone,” Alexander told Observer reporter Richard Wray. “It is so iconic that it was the device that we had to have.”
Such open praise for one handset from the head of a network operator surely says more than any market penetration stats about the impact that Apple has had on the mobile market. How much would the established handset makers give for that sort of eulogy?
In a separate article on the same page, O2 CEO Ronan Dunne was protesting, arguably a little too much, that O2 always knew that its period of exclusivity was finite, and that: “the organisation has never focused itself around one product”.
In fact, I think that over the past five years, O2 has done a tremendous job in transforming its brand image from one of the also-rans to one of the more switched-on mobile networks, while Orange went the other way. Under Alexander’s stewardship, however, Orange is looking a little more like its old self, and the iPhone deal will certainly help its street cred.
O2, meanwhile, has come in for a lot of stick from tech-savvy iPhone users on Twitter and blogs over its coverage. Orange (and Vodafone) may face the same problems, though there is perhaps an argument that the bleeding edge, tech-savvy consumers who have given O2 such a hard time have all got their iPhones now. Given the inevitable downward price pressure that will result from the device being available on three networks rather than one, it could be that the next generation of iPhone users will be a bit less savvy and a bit more forgiving. (It's also possible that users on Orange and Vodafone will not experience the same coverage issues of course.) Either way, with the Orange/T-Mobile merger also in the offing, life for O2 come the end of its free run at the iPhone could be challenging to say the least.