Briefly emerging for air from AT&T Mobility's iPhone launch reality distortion field, I've been thinking back to another launch less than a year ago- the BlackBerry Pearl on ATT-Mob predecessor Cingular.
Even though the launches were by the same carrier, that's about all they had in common. I can offer several points of differentiation.
The overarching difference, at least for me, is that in this iPhone launch, Apple has been calling the shots. Shots as to retail coordination, online sales (Apple site but not on AT&T), even issuing specific orders for carrier stores about open and closing times on debut day.
At least in terms of online and retail distribution for the Pearl, AT&T Mobility- then known as Cingular- seemed to handle most of the details.
I was BlackBerry- blogging elsewhere at the time, but I do remember massive confusion over the launch date for the Cingy Pearl. I even deputized my readers to call or visit their local Cingular Wireless store and report back to us with the deets.
What we got from Cingy retail was a wide variance in knowledge of Pearl, brand awareness, marketing savvy, and even degree of interest. Some sales clerks hadn't heard of the Pearl, others said it was coming on such and such a day, a few even snuck a customer or two back for a peek and a few minutes with the device.
Perhaps the fact that another carrier (T-Mobile) had debuted the BlackBerry Pearl months earlier weakened the secrecy mantra, but that only reinforces my central point.
With BlackBerry it is all about the carriers. BlackBerry's culture is not one of a control freak, managing distribution and awareness to even the most junior retail person at carrier partners- and ruling that awareness with an iron fist.
With Apple, it is all about Apple. This is our product, and carriers need to be brought to heel, and stick with the plan -Apple's plan- from carrier store managers all the way down to the newest, fresh-faced in-store salesperson and cashier.