We learn (from financial analysts watching Apple quite closely) that for every unlocked iPhone sold and used with a different operator than ATT and the three Europeans selected for France, Germany and the UK, Apple potentially loses as much as 400-500 bucks a piece (not sure whether this is over the lifetime of the phone or annual miss, I reckon over the lifetime). Whatever. It's a good bunch of greenbacks. With about a million iPhones unlocked, do the math.
Here's the thing. If Apple decides to stop this and forces buyers to activate their phones at the POS they'll lose one in four buyers, or even more, meaning they may miss their 2008 year end 10 million unit target. And this is the last thing they wanna do.
On the other hand, if they continue their current practices they are going to lose much more in lost recurring revenue from unlocked phones. What to do then?
One thing I know for a fact, this whole thing of linking an iPhone exclusively to an operator is a pile of cowshit. They'd be much better off doing what the other big suppliers (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, etc) do for years now. Sell plain unlocked phones. But again... these Cupertino folks are those who invented "think different". It ain't different if you sell you cellphones just like Nokia, right?
Think about an alternative: Why focus on a target of 10M units and take ages to launch to mega markets like China, EU and India? Combined population of all three is shy of 3 Billion people. Maybe good for a market of more than 500,000 phones a year. Throw the right iPhone package to these markets and selling another 10 million units in the first year must be a slam-dunk.
I reckon the current Apple iPhone strategy smells very much like stubbornness El Jobso style. Like wanting to cure his pancreatic cancer with a simple diet. Well, nobody's perfect. Even his Jobness.