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Apple, AT&T Bring Net Neutrality Upon Themselves

Apple, and, especially, AT&T have tipped over the apple cart (pardon the pun) for the sake of something as insignificant as a wart on their fannies. The result will be very draconian net neutrality provisions affecting not only exclusive carrier deals with handset makers -- something we already know has FCC head Julius Genachowski in a lather -- but business rules for app stores as well.

Think of what's at stake for both companies:

  • For Apple, the continuation of its runaway success in the smartphone market, fueled by an App Store that, while frustrating customers with nasty no-money-back policies and developers with fuzzy and arbitrary rules, has managed to attract the loyalty of both end-users and developers (who, granted, get the benefit of wide distribution and frictionless e-commerce operations);
  • For AT&T, an exclusive deal with the hottest smartphone on the market, driving its recent financial successes.
For what? To block Google Voice? Seriously, Google hasn't had a hit application since Gmail. Google Voice was popular with the Twitter set, but that's about it. In fact, a quick search of Twitter shows a lot of "what the heck is Google Voice" queries.

So in order to thwart a service offered by a vendor which has thus far shown no ability to disrupt anyone outside its own core business, AT&T and Apple have undone all the momentum and market-shifting potential of the iPhone and the app store business model.

It's a shame really, because the iPhone not only forced other handset makers like Nokia, Research in Motion, and even Motorola to improve their products and start adding better applications, but has also shown the way to truly mobile computing.

Here's hoping everyone hitching their bandwagons to Android will know what to do with it.

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