SAN FRANCISCO—To understand the next big thing in wireless, AT&T’s Glenn Lurie couldn’t help but explain what made the iPhone such a game-changer.
Lurie, speaking at Frost & Sullivan’s Go Mobile 2009 conference on Monday, noted that the iPhone opened people’s eyes to what a device can do. “It’s the most successful device – smartphone for sure – ever launched,” he said.
Interestingly, The NPD Group released a report yesterday saying the Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry Curve moved past Apple’s iPhone to become the best-selling consumer smartphone in the United States in the first quarter, thanks in large part to Verizon Wireless’ “buy-one-get-one” promotion.
That didn’t come up during Lurie’s presentation, but few would dispute the game-changing nature of the iPhone. The device has produced some firsts, including being the highest in customer satisfaction, and despite media reports, it’s still exclusive to AT&T, Lurie added.
A lot of people thought AT&T was crazy not to dictate the phone’s UI and other features. “We had to throw out all the rules and there were people who thought we were nuts… It worked out pretty well,” he said.
Of course, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the phone would not come with a manual, “that was a short meeting,” Lurie quipped.
Lurie, who is president of emerging devices and resale for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, shared some little-publicized factoids, such as AT&T having more wholesale subscribers of any U.S. carrier, with prepaid phone provider Tracfone being the largest wholesale customer.
Without naming Sprint Nextel by name, he also gave props to that carrier for offering wholesale service for the Amazon Kindle.
In the future, Lurie sees the growth – no surprise here – in emerging devices, and acknowledged that it’s time to think outside the box., similar to what AT&T did with the iPhone.
That will mean different billing options, including day passes for mobile Internet use. He also spent some time on the benefit of providing both wide area network coverage and Wi-Fi, the latter being something AT&T has gone after in a far bigger way than rival Verizon Wireless.
Changing times also mean financial metrics will need to get updated. Today, analysts look at net additions, ARPU and churn as key indicators of the health of a carrier’s business, but going forward, measurements will need to take into account profit margins, connections per person and connections per household, Lurie said.