Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Association with AT&T Is Hurting Apple. So Why Would Blackberry Choose Them for the Blackberry Pad?

Talk to anyone who carries an I-Phone and one gets two reactions: 1) they love the phone, and 2) they hate AT&T, the telecom carrier that Apple chose as a partner for its phone. Verizon had been approached early on but would not accept the conditions that Apple imposed. AT&T, needing a major success, accepted Apple's conditions and gave itself significant revenue and prominence. A large portion of its customers are with AT&T only because it is the only carrier for the I-Phone.

If an when Apple gives the I-Phone to other carriers, AT&T will likely loose customers. They may not depart for T-Mobile, which may get the I-Phone, but if and when Verizon gets the I-Phone, the exodus of customers will be by the thousands, if not millions.

Brand associations are important. Partners are important. As our mother's always told us, "we will be known by the company we keep". The I-Phone is negatively impacted by its association with AT&T. It is a true testament to the brand strength of Apple and the quality of the I-Phone that customers are willing to put up with dropped calls and poor customer service to stay with Apple.

Now comes word that Research in Motion, the maker of Blackberry has a competitor to the I-Pad ready for shipment in the fall. To be known as Blackberry Pad ( or at least that is the name that Blackberry has licensed), the device is supposed to offer improvements over the I-Pad, including a front and rear camera to offer Skype conferencing. Obviously this is something that Apple can offer in its next generation I-Pad, but Blackberry has owned the corporate market and will further secure that position. So, why is Blackberry ready to give its "pad" to AT&T? Can the deal be that good from AT&T that it is worth damaging the Blackberry brand?

AT&T offers Blackberry, but so does Verizon. Those I know who have their Blackberry with Verizon seem much more pleased with the quality of calls and the lack of dropped calls compared with those who have their phones with AT&T.

Verizon may not be as willing to compromise and deal as is AT&T, but I hope that Blackberry's marketing team realizes that its brand will be partially associated with the carrier it chooses. If it really wants to establish clear differentiation from Apple, it should select Verizon and demonstrate the full value of its new product, and not allow the problems at AT&T to diminish its offering.

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