From Gassée’s “Apple Perplexing Verizon Promotion” in this week’s Monday Note:
After the basic 5G pitch, Tim Cook called Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s CEO, to the stage. A Swedish-born executive with decades of industry experience, Vestberg got an unusual amount of stage time, about four minutes of the 70-minute event, which he used extoll Verizon’s infrastructure and collaboration with Apple, culminating in the proclamation that 5G has finally arrived:
Vestberg is an articulate pitchman and did a commendable job in presenting Verizon’s collaboration with Apple as the kind epoch-making event Cook referred to, but we can be sure that the other carriers depicted in the world partnership chart were less than charmed that Apple gave so much airtime to Verizon and its Chairman and CEO.
Surely, say some pundits, there must have been some kind of quid pro quo… Looking at a possible financial consideration for Vestberg’s airtime, Ben Thompson, a long-time industry analyst, wrote that it felt “awfully sordid”. John Gruber, a well-informed and relevant (a rare combination) Apple observer reacted thus:
“…it just felt so gratuitous. I don’t know what Verizon paid Apple for this slot in the event, but it must have been a fortune. Good god would I love to be privy to the negotiations between Apple, Verizon, and AT&T for this”…
The question remains: Did Apple really take money from Verizon to give its CEO four minutes on stage at the iPhone 12 event? I don’t think Apple is in such dire straights. Instead of a payoff, this might have been a payback against other carriers who failed to invest enough in their 5G network updates. Failure to invest in 5G networking would negatively impact the sales of new 5G iPhones. In this scenario, Apple would compensate for the underinvestment of carrier X or Y by heavily promoting Verizon and its better 5G network. Apple would be doing what it needs to do to stimulate the sales of 5G iPhones.
My take: While Verizon was investing in its network, AT&T was putting its money into WarnerMedia (formerly known as Warner Communications, AOL Time Warner and Time Warner). That’s why I switched. Glad I did.