"An industry executive argues that service providers face becoming "irrelevant" to consumers, though it might be unusual to hear it said in public," writes Gary Kim. It is the same argument - dumb pipe versus value added reseller.
While VZ and ATT have billing relationships with hundreds of millions of customers, is that enough? Without valuable contact to your customers, service providers are relegated to being a line item on the credit card bill -- commodities to be RFP'ed or shopped.
At the end of the day for most customers, they just want the service to work. Cellcos should stick to their knitting and make a network that connects first - before they try swimming upstream.
At the same end of the day, AT&T and its shareholders just want revenue to grow. Revenue is flat. Everyone and their baby has a cellphone or two plus a device or two. Shared data plans by the RBOC-cellcos are just a way to increase ARPU on their current customers. These plans aren't for YOU - they are for them! They need the money. It costs more under Obama to horde spectrum, lobby Congress, and sue customers.
AT&T is also throwing a lot of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Storage, Synaptic cloud, managed services, blah, blah, blah. They are also chasing apps.
TechCrunch writes how AT&T is going after app developers. "it is partnering with mobile app developer platform Appcelerator to offer APIs for speech, mobile messaging and mobile payment services into their apps. ... This is the first time that a carrier has partnered with Appcelerator, whose Appcelerator Titanium platform is used by 350,000 developers." AT&T has been running hack-a-thons across the US this year.
In similar news, Telefonica acquired Tokbox today for an undisclosed amount of money.
In a sidebar, Yahoo bought Stamped today. I don't know how that gets Yahoo CEO's goals accomplished though.