The big AT&T iPhone activation screwup: here's why

As Apple continues to having its iPhone supply chain down pat, reports have been stacking up all day that this activation procedure is taking 18 hours or more.Several of my readers are complaining.

As Apple continues to having its iPhone supply chain down pat, reports have been stacking up all day that this activation procedure is taking 18 hours or more.

Several of my readers are complaining.

Most recent, from reader bfloren:

After 19 hours I still get this on my screen: "Your activation requires additional time to complete." -- What total garbage!!!!!!!!! Of course, my phone that WAS WORKING no longer works while I have to wait for AT&T + Apple to get their $@$@#$@# act together. I am REALLY REALLY disappointed here... Very very poor delivery AT&T -- the best part is the AT&T reps I have talked to on the phone blame Apple's iTunes software and the Apple rep I talked to in the "sync" department blames AT&T -- welcome to the big pass the buck circle... :( -- Very disappointed --

The pros are complaining as well. Here's a fresh take from my colleague Declan McCullagh:

It's important to stress that the iPhone can't be used for anything useful, not even playing music or movies, until activation happens.

The bottom line? Apple did everything it could to ensure that buying and setting up (and presumably using, though I can't attest to that yet) an iPhone is a pleasant experience. It succeeded magnificently.

But its key business partner, AT&T, has failed just as miserably. Computer companies know how to load-test a server to figure out how it will respond under unusually high demand for its services. Why didn't AT&T do the same for its iPhone activation?

Here's what I think is going on. Apple and AT&T concentrated so much on moving the device to the stores and ensuring that they were in all stores in adequate amounts, that the server load stuff got pushed back to the engineers.

Marketers are from Venus, and engineers are from Neptune. Either the engineers weren't sufficiently ridden on to get the activiation infrastructure mastered by now, or AT&T Mobility was so bullied into not missing the debut date that their engineers may have been forced into an improvised workaround that may be collapsing under its own weight.

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