In a previous blog post, I wrote about how the idea of Apple becoming an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) actually had some merit to it and was not the craziest idea I had heard. My thinking was that it would allow an even greater way for Apple to force you to "stay in the family". Part of the thinking had to do with that, as an MVNO, Apple could potentially provide both a greater depth of coverage while also linking Airtime to services (such as free downloads of Apple purchases).
Well, I think the Apple Watch and its new move into the world of IoT may start to make this make even more sense....
As I am writing this, Apple sent out an invite a little while ago to tell the world all about its new Watch that is coming out. While I can't say that I love the feature set of the watch (they seemed to strip out a lot, making it just a bit more functional than most activity trackers at half the price or less), I am excited for the possibility that such a platform can bring.
Think about it....how long will it take for future watches to have built in cellular and WiFi connectivity, if it won't already on this generation? Now, you will easily be able to not only transmit data from you (namely your health, location, etc) but this gives a truly "always on" platform to send key IoT data. It would be ideal for updated information about flights, traffic and emergencies from home. It would just make a lot of sense for Apple to tie in a Watch sale to an overall package including Airtime.
The latest issue of Macworld had an interesting article about HomeKit. Basically, it provides the building blocks to help many IoT solutions move into the IOS platform quite seamlessly. Among the few that they listed were automated locking systems, the ability to control lighting and even the ability to connect legacy non-connected devices to a plug that would allow them to be remotely controlled.
Now, is this revolutionary? Hardly.... we've been talking about similar solutions for a while. However, the idea that one's iPhone (or, even better, a Watch) could be easily connected to these things is quite compelling....and, it becomes a much better ecosystem if Apple controls the transport layer. Now, you can have a service at your home that is controlled by your Watch, where the Airtime is part of the overall service (even though you are using your own device to do it).
And, the implications are well beyond the consumer. Using one's iPad to turn on key pieces of industrial equipment....using an iPhone to control the temperature of a fridge....using a Watch to open a security gate. Again, these applications are quite far from revolutionary, but what Apple has done is what they always do.....taken something and made it much simpler and more appealing to more people.
No, I don't think it will. Apple will still have a very strong and compelling offering that will further reinforce the stickiness of their overall ecosystem. I just think it gets a heck of a lot better if they do. Plus, think about how they could offer a better evergreening program! Most of us are lucky if a Smartphone lasts 2 years, so does it not make sense that Apple would offer a combined offer (New phone every 2 years, Airtime and some services) for a monthly price? While they could still do it now, it becomes awfully sticky if they are providing the airtime too...
The one thing that Apple has shown is that they are a very unpredictable company and that they tend to march to their own drummer. So, it almost seems that the more we talk about them becoming an MVNO, the less likely they are to actually do it. However, just because it may have been forecasted for a while, it doesn't mean that it won't be smart for them to become one.