When the iPhone burst upon the world three and a half years ago, the smartphone landscape was very different from the one we see today. Palm Treos, Blackberries and Windows Mobile were the dominant players; they were mainly selected by geeks and people that needed them for business. In the intervening period, the staff at AT&T stores have focused on selling and supporting Apple's super-phone, but that's beginning to change as it appears ever more likely that iPhones will soon be available from other American cell carriers.
Bloomberg reports that after dipping its toe into the Android pool in the past six months, AT&T is about to dive into the deep end with three more Motorola Android phones plus three Windows Phone 7 handsets -- all in anticipation of losing exclusivity on the iPhone. Consultant Craig Johnson warns that AT&T may risk turning off customers by offering too many new choices at once after focusing on a single device and user interface since 2007. Given the tight grip that Microsoft is maintaining on the Win7 interface and the consistent Motoblur skin that Motorola is applying to its phones, that might not be so much of a problem. The main choice that customers will have to make is the desired form factor and features on the individual phones.
While AT&T plans to keep selling iPhones for the foreseeable future even if Verizon gets a version come 2011, it has already begun refreshing its stores and training its 25,000 retail employees to sell and support all of the new handsets. Staff in urban areas will get four hour in-store classes while those in rural stores will participate via live video streams. Sales staff will also be incentivized to move the new phones with an offer of a free handset for being among the first to sell four of the new phones.