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Apple's big week: the good, the bad, the ugly

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The Ugly

1. AT&T embarrasses itself What was a quietly successful week for Apple was a PR pie-in-the-face for AT&T.

First, the telecom giant that everyone loves to hate was laughed at twice during the keynote presentation. The first was when iPhone software honcho Scott Forstall said that although MMS will be in iPhone Software 3.0, AT&T won't support it until "later this summer." The second time came when he conspicuously omitted any mention of AT&T support during his discussion of internet tethering in 3.0 - and then smirked to the crowd when they chortled.

Then there's the fact that the iPhone 3G S will be ready for 7.2 megabit per second mobile broadband right out of the gate, but that AT&T doesn't plan to complete its support for that upgraded standard until 2011. And that's a plan, not a certainty.

Now there's the still-simmering fiasco over AT&T's muddled explanations about exactly how much it will charge existing iPhone 3G owners to move up to an iPhone 3G S during their existing contract.

The latter is especially galling in that it would seem straightforward for AT&T to explain to the world what its exact pricing plans are, and let folks make their decisions. But, no, pricing for an upgrade is on a case-by case basis, no MMS rates have been announced, and tethering isn't even official, let alone priced.

People - most people - understand that since they're on a contract, AT&T shouldn't take it in the shorts by letting them completely off the hook. But there's something also to be said for supporting loyal customers, rewarding early adopters, and building your base through intelligent compromise.

Image counts, and AT&T's image is starting to make Apple look bad. Big Phone is the boyfriend gone to seed, the one you don't want to be seen with at a party, the one who doesn't care about what others think, the one who abuses old friends.

It might be time for a break-up, Apple. You might invite Verizon over again, as you did before you met AT&T. Now that your desirability is well proven, Verizon might see you as a better catch.

After all, Apple, both Verizon and AT&T will be moving to LTE in the 4G future. We suggest that you think of walking into that high-speed world hand in hand with a service provider for which your customers harbor far less distaste. ®

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