Sprint CEO Dan Hesse recently sat down for an interview with the master of one-on-ones and black backdrops, Charlie Rose, and while much of the talk was spent traveling down memory lane and revisiting Hesse's two-decade rise through the ranks at AT&T before fleeing in 2000, there were some great quotes that came out of it:
  • "We're getting ready to launch a couple of new Android devices." We know one's the Hero, and the other -- if we were the betting types -- is the Samsung InstinctQ.
  • Rose: "The merger with Nextel was a bad idea?" Hesse: "In 20 / 20 hindsight, it was, yes... the premium that Sprint paid for Nextel was too much." Sprint's gone back and forth on the idea of spinning off Nextel over the past couple years, so it's not a surprising thing for him to think -- but to hear Sprint's CEO actually say out loud that he thinks a very active part of its network shouldn't have become part of the company is a little bombastic.
  • "Our prepaid brand is Boost." Nothing wild and crazy about that statement, though it does reaffirm that Virgin Mobile is destined for assimilation. The whole thing's kinda funny considering that Boost dabbled in CDMA before reversing course, and once again, Sprint will be dealing with large installed bases of both iDEN and CDMA prepaid customers.
  • On touchscreen smartphones: "Those are the most expensive phones for us to sell, and those are the ones where we need to make sure that the customer stays with us [and] doesn't churn, because we're out a lot of money... those are expensive devices." Theoretically, an aggressively-priced subsidized smartphone could still end up leaving a carrier in the red if you broke your contract early on and paid the ETF, but we doubt that's a huge problem -- especially for a CDMA carrier like Sprint. He goes on to say "I'm already looking at 4G versions of smartphones," so that's really encouraging to hear, particularly if you're into WiMAX.
  • "Customer will pay premium for simplicity. Simplicity is everything... Digital One Rate which we launched back at AT&T, that was all about simplicity... people paid more. It wasn't a price cut." Translation: "Unlimited makes you feel like you're getting a deal, but rest assured, we're banking."
  • In response to Rose asking how Sprint uses the Palm Pre to take on Apple and RIM: "It was really kind of Palm's decision to take on Apple. And Palm has had [a] long standing relationship with Sprint." It's interesting to hear Hesse seemingly back away from a fight with Apple and chalk up the situation to happenstance -- RIM not as much, considering that Sprint carries a number of BlackBerrys in its lineup and will certainly continue to do so. Talking more about pitting the Pre against the iPhone, he goes on to say that Palm's handset is "doing well. But you've got to almost put the iPhone, to be fair, in a separate category. The Apple brand and that device has done so well. It's like comparing someone to Michael Jordan." If that's not a tactful acknowledgment that the iPhone is a bona fide wireless superstar, we don't know what is. Hesse's giving the iPhone the respect it's rightfully earned -- as any strategically-minded executive would.
  • "The biggest impediment to mobile growth is you got processors are getting a lot faster, screens are getting sharper, they use more and more power, and battery technology is not moving very fast... That's the one breakthrough that the industry needs. It needs battery breakthroughs." It's good to hear that Hesse understands as well as everyone else that the wireless industry needs to be focused on making power draw a non-issue, but he sounds less convinced of the solution: "I don't know. Solar we hope, and renewable energy sources." When Sprint gets some cash socked away, it might consider throwing some R&D money at the problem -- it'll be first to market with something resembling a "national" 4G network, after all, and the situation's only going to get worse.
Who knew you'd find out so much about the inner workings of the States' third-largest carrier from watching PBS?

[Via Gizmodo]