Move over, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) . Step aside, AT&T (NYSE: T ) . Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) just became the first pure electronics retailer to carry the iPhone.
This isn't a strategy so much as a carpet-bombing. Not of Circuit City and Radio Shack (NYSE: RSH ) -- in fact, there's a rumor that Radio Shack is next in line to sell the device -- but of the market. Apple, again, is aiming for pervasiveness. Best Buy, with nearly 1,000 stores in the U.S., could boost the iEmpire's iPhone sales network by more than 40%.
And it's doing so with a partner that's spent time and money getting prepared. Best Buy already sells Macs in its stores, and its new Mobile group has invested in in-store activation systems, a must after iTunes activations proved to be problematic for early buyers of the iPhone 3G.
At the core of an Apple strategy for domination
But Best Buy is more than a partner; it's a blunt instrument. CEO Steve Jobs said at last year's Macworld that Apple would sell 10 million iPhones in 2008. With Best Buy, I can see the iEmpire exceeding its goal and then selling three or four times that in subsequent years.
The timing is right. Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry is no longer just for the button-down-shirt-and-khaki crowd. Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) handsets are getting richer in function by the day. And even if I'm bearish on Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) , there's no denying that its cute little Centro is a winner.
Smartphones have arrived at the first-prover stage of this mass-market race. Whoever builds the best, most pervasive, most affordable platform wins. Apple, with Best Buy, just got a nice tailwind.
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