AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has made the prediction that most future iPad buyers will be connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi and not on the carrier's 3G network. But is saying that in public smart for their business?
According to Reuters, Stephenson said, "My expectation is that there's not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription," continuing that Apple's new tablet computer would be a primarily "Wi-Fi driven product."
The statement isn't entirely encouraging of getting consumers to subscribe to their plans, at least AT&T is being honest and real with itself. If you're already plunking down $500 or $600 on a gadget, the last thing you want to add is another monthly fee. And unless an owner has the attachable keyboard, I can't see anyone doing any serious work on it ALL the time.
Stephenson also makes the point that most iPad consumers will already have access to plenty of Wi-Fi networks, such as at home, work or coffee shops (although it's AT&T who provides the free Wi-Fi to its consumers at Starbucks nationwide).
This might be where it really becomes evident that the iPad is not an enlarged iPhone. It may look it, but besides the lack of phone capabilities and a built-in camera, it won't be used in the same ways or at the same times you would use an iPhone. Would you really pull 9.7-inch tablet out of your bag while waiting for the bus? No. But you would do that with a smartphone, thus the need for 3G networks then and not in the case as much for the iPad.
Thus, perhaps it is a smart move that Stephenson and AT&T position their game plan and business expectations around this idea to focus in on promoting 3G subscriptions for smartphones and handhelds rather than a shiny tablet computer.