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Is Apple changing their stand on exclusive iPhone deals? New operator gets deal in Scandinavia

Apple has had a clear policy of only offering the iPhone exclusively through one mobile operator, like they do in the UK with O2 and with AT&T in the US, but following a ruling in France last year where the competition authorities forced Apple to offer the iPhone to all mobile operators in the country we have now also seen that Apple has signed agreement with a second Norwegian operator, Telenor, for the Scandinavian market.Apple already have an agreement with Netcom for the Norwegian market, but now they have also signed a distribution agreement with their largest competitor Telenor, giving them the right to sell the iPhone in all the Scandinavian countries.

Is the iPhone coming to more networksYou might ask what the significance of Apple authorizing a second distributor to sell the iPhone in a small market like Norway, but some might choose to see this as a fundamental shift in Apple’s policy when it comes to the distribution of the popular phone. The argument in France was that Apple’s deal with Orange would be detrimental to the overall competition in the marketplace, given Orange’s large marketshare already. In Norway/Scandinavia the same argument can’t really be made, as Telenor and Netcom are more even in the marketplace. However the argument can be made that by allowing just one of the operators to sell the iPhone one is limiting the overall competition in the marketplace.

Alternatively this is potentially a shift in policy from Apple as they are starting to see that to increase the market penetration of the iPhone further, they need to increase their distribution in key markets, understanding that not all customers are happy to change mobile operator to use the iPhone, which also leads to more people choosing to jailbreak their iPhone to use it on other mobile networks. The exclusive deals also limits the customer choice for use of their iPhone, therefore it can be seen as limiting competition in the marketplace.

So is there any chance that we will see other mobile operators getting distribution rights to the iPhone in the UK and US? It might not happen this year, but as competition increases from other mobile phone producers, and the quality of the phones on the Google Android platform and RIM etc. increases, Apple might not have a choice. With increased competition on the handset side (smartphones) distribution once again becomes a critical factor in the success of a company, potentially making the exclusive deals in the marketplace a bad option in terms of driving sales and revenue. Once Apple realizes that these deals are limiting the sales progression of the iPhone worldwide we are sure that they will change their policy in more markets.

We will continue to cover this area and bring you the latest news on the iPhone 3G and future generations of the iPhone.

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