iPhone failings great for Telstra: Burgess

iPhone failings great for Telstra: Burgess

Summary: The iPhone's shortcomings have been a boon to Telstra, the telco's outgoing public policy chief Phil Burgess claimed in his last Australian speech yesterday.

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TOPICS: Apple, iPhone, Telcos, Telstra
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The iPhone's shortcomings have been a boon to Telstra, the telco's outgoing public policy chief Phil Burgess claimed in his last Australian speech yesterday.

Telstra's Phil Burgess
(Credit: Telstra)

"One of the best things that has happened to us at Telstra is the iPhone because people think, hah, I want to get an iPhone. Well, how do I get video calls on it? Well, you can't do video calls on it," he said during the speech to the Lowy Institute.

"How can I get 33 channels of live TV on it?" he continued, referring to services available on other devices on Telstra's Next G network. "Well you can't get 33 channels of live TV. I can't? Well, I thought the iPhone was the best in the world. Well it isn't. It's the best in the United States. The United States is a third-world country when it comes to wireless."

Despite the fact that Telstra is one of the vendors offering the gadget in Australia, Burgess further dug his boot into the device because of its limitations.

"It has embedded code that makes it hard to import material from outside the walled garden of Apple. That's the way they operate," he said.

Australia led the world in mobile, Burgess told the gathering, which he said meant that expectant users bit enthusiastically into their Apple iPhone, only to discover a sour taste.

On other topics, however, the executive didn't look at Australia in such a kind light. He railed against Australian policy of putting big companies on a leash, keeping them as big fish in a small pond instead of allowing them to grow and attack global giants, such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, which he considered to be Telstra's true competitors.

"Our biggest competitor is not Optus. Our major competitor is Google. Our major competitor is Yahoo. Our major competitors are people like Microsoft," he said.

Our biggest competitor is not Optus. Our major competitor is Google.

Phil Burgess

By holding companies like Telstra back, Australia was stopping them from finding suitable partners to succeed in the global economy, Burgess said. "Pretty soon, the world's passed it by and all the good partners have already checked off their dance card. It's stupid," he said. "And then all of a sudden you wake up some day and half the people in your neighbourhood have Google for wireless."

Whether Australia was overrun by Google or not, Burgess professed that he had grown to admire and care for the sunburned country in his 38-month tenure.

He valued Australian ideas such as "mateship" and the "fair go", although he wasn't a fan of the "she'll be right" concept, which he considered had brought a certain apathy to injustices such as the awarding of the OPEL contract.

He praised Australia's economic management, social stability with so many cultures and strategic economic positioning within Asia.

However, he felt Australians scored a fail on their faith in "regulators and policy wonks", the amount of power and place in the media awarded to bureaucrats, and the use of ideas such as "future-proofing". He said he would rather be bullet-proof, fireproof, or most of all foolproof.

His last piece of advice was that Australian business should not get too cosy with government.

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Telcos, Telstra

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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Talkback

25 comments
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  • Telstra is now MediaComms

    I always thought "Apple" is overated. Further signs Telstra is now a "MediaComms" company!!
    anonymous
  • how important is video call and having 33 channels

    Who cares
    anonymous
  • seriously?!

    This guy has his head up his ass. How many people are making video calls and watching TV on their phones today? That is a poor reason to slag the iPhone, which is by far the most user friendly and advanced mobile device on the market. And "Apple's walled garden"? I guess he chose to ignore the 1000+ 3rd party apps already written for the iPhone!! And I won't even start with the competitor comments - Telstra are so far from being a competitor to the web companies it is scary (although they might like to think that they are).
    anonymous
  • At least he spoke his mind

    Phil always spoke his mind, very unusual for someone in his position, Telstra has changed a lot since Phil et al came onboard.
    The Apple Iphone is a neat piece of consumer kit, but the walled garden approach is old hat and like AOL Apple will adapt or lose revenue. Oh and by the way videocalling and digital TV on handsets are low value today, but very common in a few developed countries, they may take off in the future.
    anonymous
  • The pot calling . . .

    Burgess said, ". . . that makes it hard to import material from outside the walled garden of Apple. That's the way they operate," Time for a dose of reality Mr Burgess - that is exactly how you helped to design Telstra to operate!
    anonymous
  • Drink a Dose of Reality Phil!

    Telstra's third world iPhone & data pricing is something that Phil may want to be answering about, lets hear about it Phil!!! And we DON'T give a toss about video calls and tv channels on the iPhone,...it must have been a fellow Telstra executive that questioned you!

    Oh, and get real Phil, OPTUS, Vodafone etc ARE your real competitors, not the high tech companies...
    anonymous
  • Glenn in Perth

    What it comes down to is that Telstra just don't get it. Unless Telstra changes it's way they will become totally Irrelevant.
    anonymous
  • Interesting comments

    Telstra originally said Apple should stick to their knitting. Then they had to do some serious butt kissing to carry the iPhone. Then they released the most ridiculous plans (I was with Telstra and was told after I went to Optus they would have matched them to keep me...too late).

    Now they're bagging the device!? No wonder Optus got the lion's share of iPhone users in Oz. Sounds like they're just justifying why they have so few users.
    anonymous
  • Telstra Bashing

    "What it comes down to is that Telstra just don't get it. Unless Telstra changes it's way they will become totally Irrelevant."

    That's the great thing about a free market, if it is allowed to do its job. If Telstra truly becomes irrelevant (i.e. provides services no one wants at a price they are willing to pay), alternatives strengthen. Forget the "big companies always create unbeatable monopolies" idea, that's only (albeit very) true to the extent big companies and big government collude and regulate - in other words, in the absence of free markets.

    To the extent Telstra still doesn't "get it", is due to a large part to its public company origins/arrogance. If they fail to turn things around, then they will keep losing market share.

    So there is no need to Telstra bash for bad choices, only for regulatory bully tactics.
    anonymous
  • Regulation

    All I can say is thank god for government regulation. We'd have the same kind of abuse of power as in the banking industry, with people like Phil and Sol running roughshot over the telco industry. These people don't care about their customers, all they care about is abuse of market position and shareholder 'value'
    anonymous
  • Hilarious

    Hilarious that Phil thinks that Telstra is on the same playing field as Google and Microsoft!! I think not.... Especially with b-grade executives from Hicksville drafted in to run the company. Telstra is about as far from Google and Microsoft than you could imagine....
    anonymous
  • Let them off the leash

    Hey look, I'm all for Telstra being "let off the leash" to go and tackle the global technology giants. Best of luck to them, they'll need it. But let's keep a hold on reality - you can't have the cake and eat it too. If you want to go and be a big player, you'll need some dedicated resources and a shift in the business' core focus. The consumer markets just aren't going to be cutting it anymore. Here's an idea that would benefit all - why not separate the retail divisions and reallocate those sparkling bodies and minds to the tasks involved? Oh, sorry. Separation. Did I swear?
    anonymous
  • Not justifying - attacking

    Spot on. It all just sounds like a bunch of sour grapes to me. Telstra almost didn't get the iPhone because of dispute about putting Sensis software on it. Then when they get it, they don't price their plans well and hence don't sell a lot. Now Dr Phil just wants to bag it out. Who cares if I can't get a video call or 33 channels of TV on the thing.
    anonymous
  • Love the Analogy Phil

    "Pretty soon, the world's passed it by and all the good partners have already checked off their dance card. It's stupid,"

    That's what happens when you're the big ugly smelly kid that's so introspective he has a fascination with his own belly button fluff.

    Every time this guy opens his mouth it's to slag something off. STFU.
    anonymous
  • A bit out of touch I think...

    I agree with Graeme Pound... I don't know anybody who uses their phone to make video calls or watch TV. So I seriously doubt the iPhone's lack of ability to do those things has had any beneficial effect what-so-ever for Telstra. Great that he speaks his mind... Bummer that it is so out of touch with the real world.
    anonymous
  • He has no idea!

    Telstra is leading the mobile phone technology , huh! Telstra is the main reason, we pay a high price for all communication tools. It's the one of the greediest company on earth, it's a shame and disgrace for Australia. iPhone is not perfect but it's a great phone and handheld device. There is no competitor close to the iPhone range.

    This Telstra executive shoul resigned and settle down in the Outback and stop talking because he has no idea!
    anonymous
  • Yes, we do need regulations

    "However, he felt Australians scored a fail on their faith in regulators"

    As opposed to the amount of power awarded to chief executives? Perhaps Phil should do some reading on the state of US banking before continuing his parroting of the Telstra anti-regulation (read: "anti-ACCC") pitch.
    anonymous
  • Video Calls

    Sorry Mr gates, but I use my Next G handset for video calling when on the road to call home to my wife, it is fantastic being able to do this whenever and wherever I choose.

    I must also be strange, yep, I admit it, because I also subscribed to the olympics and had a ball watching some of the swimming when on holiday on a boat with no TV, it was excellent.

    Of course prices could always be cheaper to help out the hip pocket, but I'm prepared to pay for the service if I think it is going to be relevant for what I want.

    Love 'em or hate 'em, they do have some good products and to be honest if we let them loose onto the rest of the world, perhaps it could have a positive impact on dragging the rest of us with them.

    I sometime think we just love shooting down any company who is doing well these days, perhaps it's the typical aussie tall poppie syndrome, I just hope our next generation grow up to appreciate what we obviously take for granted.

    I also think Dr Phil did an excellent job of bringing a lot of things out into the open, think about it, wouldn't these forums be quiet if we didn't have people like him to whinge about, Na, come to think of it, I'm sure we'd all find somebody else to attack :-)
    anonymous
  • You are fully right mate.

    It's a great comment, you are completely right.
    anonymous
  • Testra's thinking needs changing

    Telsta with is current thinking is going to kill its own company. Come on 3g costs telsta nothing but they charge SO much for it. What telstra has forgotton is ok at the moment it doesn't have video call but it does have over 3000 apps now which kills any other phone. I will admit the iphone could have more features like mms but at the end of the day, it does everything I want it to do and 3000 more things. Get real telstra. The whole world has started creating a phone that is copying the iphone design, Take 2 seconds to think why!
    anonymous