An absolutely fascinating piece from Fred Vogelstein at Wired detailing the tumultuous relationship between Apple and AT&T. Apparently Ma Bell even took umbrage with the wardrobe of Apple’s executive team.
When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”
But there’s a lot more meat here, such as Apple’s reluctance to work with AT&T to help alleviate bandwidth issues.
In a bid to avert the looming [bandwidth] problem, a team headed by senior vice president Kris Rinne met with Apple to ask for help. Of course AT&T was planning to upgrade its network to handle the increased demand, Rinne’s team told Apple executives, but that was going to take years. In the meantime, would Apple take measures to help throttle back the traffic? Perhaps Apple could restrict its YouTube app to run only over Wi-Fi. Maybe the iPhone could feature a smaller, lower-resolution videostream or cut off YouTube videos after one minute. Rinne, who had already met with Apple’s iPhone team at least half a dozen times, fully expected the company to play along…
But in meetings with Apple engineers and marketers over the subsequent year, Rinne and other AT&T executives discovered that Apple wasn’t playing by traditional wireless rules. It wasn’t interested in cooperating, especially if it meant hobbling what had quickly become its marquee product. For Apple, the idea of restricting the iPhone was akin to asking Steve Jobs to ditch the black turtleneck. “They tried to have that conversation with us a number of times,” says someone from Apple who was in the meetings. “We consistently said ‘No, we are not going to mess up the consumer experience on the iPhone to make your network tenable.’ They’d always end up saying, ‘We’re going to have to escalate this to senior AT&T executives,’ and we always said, ‘Fine, we’ll escalate it to Steve and see who wins.’ I think history has demonstrated how that turned out.”