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France Telecom CEO talks SIM cards, next iPhone, apps and more


The CEO of France Telecom, Stephane Richard, recently spoke to Ina Fried at AllThingsD and spilled some juicy tidbits about how Orange (a global brand owned by France Telecom, which currently sells the iPhone in 15 countries) has worked with Apple. He also made some interesting comments about Apple's competition in the smartphone world while basically crediting the company for creating the entire smartphone market! And yes, he mentions RIM and Nokia, two other pioneers in the smartphone game.

In terms of dealing with Apple, Richard's comments about apps made me cringe. He's basically in favor of carrier-owned app marketplaces, which were the standard before the iPhone came around. You know all that crapware that comes pre-installed on Windows machines and other smartphones? Yeah, he loves that stuff and worries that someday Apple will deny an app that Orange approves of. He also says, however, that his company has a good working relationship with Cupertino, who can be "a little tough." If Apple should refuse an app that Orange likes, Richards says, "Definitely, if we face these kind of problems, we will go to court. Because competition is not only something that should be applied to telcos and to carriers. For us it should be a principle for the whole Internet environment." Those of us in America will chuckle at that competition comment, given AT&T's former stranglehold on the iPhone.

The juicy bit that the Apple blogosphere seems to be freaking out about today is Richard's comment about the "next iPhone." After a discussion regarding a SIM-less phone (like ESIM), and noting that the SIM card takes up valuable space, he goes on to say, "I understood that the next iPhone would be smaller and thinner and they are definitely seeking some space." Which, in blogosphere freak out-speak means that Apple's next iPhone will be the iPhone nano. I think he's simply saying the next iPhone will be somewhat smaller and thinner, which is par for the course for Apple's design team, isn't it? I'm hard pressed to think of a product line that Apple made larger and thicker in a new iteration. At any rate, we already knew Orange was working with Apple on a smaller SIM card.

Richard kvetched a while back about smartphones gobbling up too much bandwidth, and now he keeps using the old "pipes" metaphor. I agree that consumers have no incentive to manage their bandwidth, but would say that Orange and others' surprise at the meteoric rise in smartphone use should have been anticipated. That said, it is no trivial matter to beef up their "pipes."

It's an interesting read from a guy who is definitely privy to Apple goings-on, however. It's clear he has a lot of respect for Apple, but is also wary of its power. He is wary of any OS provider gaining too much power, however, as he calls out Google's Android releases as a possible "weapon" -- meaning they could use an OS release as leverage against a carrier.

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