Is Apple about to take carrier disintermediation to the next level by contracting their own, built-in SIM card for future iPhones? GigaOm thinks so:

Sources inside European carriers have reported that Apple has been working with SIM-card manufacturer Gemalto to create a special SIM card that would allow consumers in Europe to buy a phone via the web or at the Apple Store and get the phones working using Apple’s App Store.

Right now, even with unlocked iPhones and iPads, you still need to get a carrier-specific SIM card. If the SIM were embedded, however, that's one less carrier interaction to worry about. The entire process could be shifted to the device, much as plan management is already done on the iPad.

The Gemalto SIM, according to my sources, is embedded in a chip that has an upgradeable flash component and a ROM area. The ROM area contains data provided by Gemalto with everything related to IT and network security, except for the carrier-related information. The flash component will receive the carrier related data via a local connection which could be the PC or a dedicated device, so it can be activated on the network. Gemalto will provide the back-end infrastructure that allows service and number provisioning on the carrier network.

Would it present a problem for multi-device power users accustomed to swapping SIMs between iPhone, Android, webOS, and other handsets? Hopefully not. They'd still have to get a SIM from their carrier, same as now.

[GigaOM]