Did AT&T Just Snub Apple?

On Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, 24 of the world's best-known telecom carriers tacitly declared Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) their mortal enemy.

The group is known as the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) and its members include China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) , NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM  ) , and U.S. heavyweights Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) . It proposes to create a new "applications ecosystem" for developers to market software that will function on any handset or network.

It's a laudable idea. Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android endured criticism when some software built for the OS failed to operate on supposedly compatible Android handsets. Preventing this problem from occurring elsewhere is smart business.

But there's more than compatibility at work here; this is also the embattled telecom industry's do-or-die response to Apple's App Store. Carriers know that developers have become the new kingmakers of their world. They also know that AT&T (NYSE: T  ) has been one of the coders' few beneficiaries, thanks to the iPhone.

So, in that respect, the WAC makes sense. Here's what doesn't: AT&T joining the movement. Yeah, that's right. The former Ma Bell is listed among the consortium's founding double dozen.

Et tu, T?

When asked to comment on the company's plans for the consortium, an AT&T representative declined comment beyond what was in Monday's press release. Fair enough, but Apple can't be happy about this -- unless, that is, plans are already underway to have a Verizon or T-Mobile iPhone here in the U.S.

Is a new iPhone already in development? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation, and Sprint Nextel is an Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool owns shares of China Mobile and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is up all night.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (18)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 3:52 PM, conradsands wrote:

    Verizon and AT&T = The Most Expensive Wireless Plans in America

    Wireless Profit Margins:

    Verizon Wireless = 45 percent

    AT&T = 39 percent

    Sprint = 18.2 percent

    Now we know where Verizon and AT&T get all that money to run commercials 24x7 and pay out big executive bonuses -- the American consumer.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 3:53 PM, conradsands wrote:

    Verizon and AT&T = The Most Expensive Wireless Plans in America

    Wireless Profit Margins:

    Verizon Wireless = 45 percent

    AT&T = 39 percent

    Sprint = 18.2 percent

    Now we know where Verizon and AT&T get all that money to run commercials 24x7 and pay out big executive bonuses -- the American consumer.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 3:57 PM, AlanDanziger wrote:

    Sorry, this is ludicrous. What percentage of the handsets on AT&T are iPhones? That would be the reason that AT&T would join the alliance...

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 5:04 PM, demodave wrote:

    Surely the new iPhone is in *development*. If you anticipate annual summer refreshes of the line, they would have started developing it some time ago. This isn't like a two week long high school science project!

    What we don't know is: what's it gonna look like? I'm hoping for a new Apple developed (PA Semi) cellular antenna.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2010, at 6:14 PM, marv08 wrote:

    There is by design no software that will run on every handset. It does not exist and it will never exist. Of course, a programmer can make the same/similar program for every platform, but this is a nightmare.

    This is a bunch of companies that have passively watched first Apple and then everybody else bypassing them. Now they desperately look out for the "fast rewind" button. There is no fast rewind in real life. Consumers were jumping in droves onto Apple's model, BECAUSE it left the telcos in the cold, not despite...

    You mean, exactly the network providers and OEMs that fail at distributing newer Android versions to their existing customers (thus creating incompatibility) will take care of ensuring compatibility now? Ask anybody being stuck with Android 1.5 on a less than 6 months old phone for his/her opinion... but better run quick :-)

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2010, at 1:30 PM, makelvin wrote:

    In order for a software to run on every handset; every handset has to adopt a standardized runtime platform such as Java. Fortunately, a lot of handset are already using Java development. But unfortunately even if every single handset in the world can run Java program code, every handset has different hardware features. So in order to truly make your software to run on every device, the software has to be developed by compromising to the lowest common denominator of available features for all phones. This will most definitely result in subpar or even terrible user experience of your software. Not really a good idea in my opinion.

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