AT&T (NYSE:T) thinks it can beat Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM) at its own game. Quoting from yesterday morning's announcement:

AT&T ... today announced a suite of content delivery and digital media solutions to help companies package, deliver and distribute video and rich multimedia Web content across their networks to the three screens that are core to AT&T's multimedia strategy -- the computer, the television and mobile computing devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry.

Sounds sexy. TV on my iPhone? Woo hoo!

Here's the problem, Fool. AT&T's content delivery network (CDN) -- which has been around for years but only now is being built out -- is aiming at rich media, just as Limelight (NASDAQ:LLNW), Level 3 (NASDAQ:LVLT), EdgeCast, and BitGravity all are.

Akamai should be worried because these and other networks are "optimized for video?" Ooooooooooo, scary.

I don't mean to be sarcastic here -- well OK, yes, I do mean to be -- but does anyone else notice that Akamai is zagging as others zig, as you'd expect from a Rule Breaker? Who else is emphasizing application delivery and software-as-a-service, for example?

Industry watcher Dan Rayburn has it right, I think. Quoting from his blog post of today:

The idea that AT&T is going to put any of the other CDNs out of business or grab a lot of market share anytime soon, will not happen. That's not my opinion, it's fact, based on their current product offering and the amount of time it takes to really build out a competitive service. Could AT&T be a real competitor sometime next year? Yes. But to what degree, with what level of service, in what vertical markets and with how robust of an offering we don't know, and won't for a long time.

I'll add that investors ought to remember why AT&T is doing this. Its network pricing is eroding. Fast. Growth, therefore, must come from added services. Services like, you know, TV for your iPhone.

Content delivery isn't a competency for AT&T as it is for Limelight, Level 3, and the smaller specialists. Wake me when Ma Bell buys one of them. That's when I'll start to worry.

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