While most of us are waiting for new Macs or even an HDTV from Apple this year, one analyst believes the iPhone and iPad maker may soon take its biggest leap to date by becoming a wireless carrier competing directly with AT&T and Verizon.
A new report finds that at least one expert in the wireless industry believes Apple's next bold move may be to supply voice and data services for its own devices - perhaps sidestepping traditional agreements with existing carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the U.S.
Whitey Bluestein is billed as a "veteran wireless industry strategist" who managed deals for the likes of AT&T, Intel, Verizon, Microsoft, Nokia and Best Buy.
Considering Apple's distribution footprint, digital content libraries and customer base with more than 250 million credit cards on file with iTunes, Bluestein believes the time is right for Apple to become their own wireless provider.
"The battleground is set, but Apple will be the first mover," Bluestein explained at a recent industry event in Barcelona.
"Google will have to scramble because it lacks retail distribution, experience with subscriber services and the iTunes ecosystem of content. iTunes and the iTunes Store provide Apple with one-click buying and customer care. Google can acquire most of these capabilities, as it has before, but it is not a core competency of the company."
Can Apple afford to cut off carriers?
Apple's continued growth in the U.S. wireless market depends on the carriers paying out large subsidies to the company, valued at somewhere in the neighborhood of $381 per iPhone sold.
In becoming its own carrier, Apple could easily maneuver around the problem and have plenty of cash on hand to ride out the transition.
CEO Tim Cook recently commented that Apple isn't concerned about carriers pinching the company's subsidy payments in the future.
So maybe the executive has other plans to avoid such a standoff?
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