CNET's Don Reisinger has a great article up about what may have been Steve's Master Plan: letting an iPhone unlock happen.
Pretty ingenious if it's true. Basically, Reisinger maintains two things: that Apple is a hardware company, and that AT&T was just a means to an end for them. If hackers are able to unlock the iPhone, Apple will lose a little bit (because they do get a small cut of service plans), but they'll still sell iPhones, and AT&T will lose everything. Jobs "did his part"-- he closed off the iPhone and declared an exclusivity deal. But now that we're on the verge of completely unlocked iPhones, Apple has no real incentive to cut it out.
And that's exactly how it's played out-- Apple's recent iPhone update did pretty much nothing to close off the system, and as Reisinger says, it wasn't Apple knocking on the doors of those who are about to unlock the iPhone-- it was AT&T. The iPhone's unlocking will bring a rush of sales for Apple-- and a rush of sobbing from AT&T headquarters.
It's hard to believe Jobs planned it all out, and we'll likely never know for sure anyway. But considering that we might be days away from an iPhone unlock, you have to wonder if Apple not only knew it would happen, but kind of wanted it to.
[ via MacBytes ]
Update: Our own Erica Sadun pinged me right before this post went to press to remind me that we're really, really close to the 90-day unlock period for most iPhone owners. In the past, AT&T has provided an unlock code for any phone upon request, as long as the customer has stuck with them for 90 days. I'm not sure if that policy is applicable with the iPhone, but that may be another factor in just how much AT&T has to lose with an iPhone unlock.