Why Apple 'gets it' and Carriers don't

The AP reports today that Cingular is introducing a new service: consumer email.

Cingular Wireless is introducing a service for nonbusiness users to get BlackBerry-like mobile access to their personal e-mail accounts from AOL, Yahoo and MSN Hotmail on a cell phone.

Why so late to the game with such an obvious consumer need? Cingular has finally realized that people spend a great deal of time on the Internet communicating with others via email, and they might want to do that on their mobile phones too.

Instead Cingular, along with Verizon and Sprint, spent immense resources over the past year building and marketing sub-standard video at high prices. While I have no idea of what the subscriber counts are (not to mention the churn rate), it’s hard to imagine that they’ve justified the investment. One indicator is the placement of Cingular’s MobiTV several clicks from the home page buried among a directory of ‘Tool Providers’.

In contrast, there’s clearly some disruption in the air with the rollout of the Video iPod.

Russell Beattie captures the experience of plugging a Video iPod into a regular TV. It turns out that watching a video podcast with others is the same social experience as watching a TV show, except highly customized to the audience:

If you’re like me and the other 99% of the people out there, your living room has probably got a bunch of big chairs and a couch all focused towards a screen in the corner. That space for years has been the place where you viewed video, and normally with several others….

Suddenly, a hum-drum “video podcast” (”what the hell is that?” most people will ask…) becomes a “TV Show” you can enjoy with others. That’s huge! And that’s what really excites me.

Once again, Steve Jobs and the skilled iPod team ‘gets’ the consumer product space. And consumer products are very different from the carrier’s true area of expertise: managing highly-scalable voice and data networks.

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