Why would AT&T want an exclusive BlackBerry Bold 9800 slider hero phone this summer?

With Apple all but certain to announce a the 4th generation iPhone (iPhone HD/iPhone 4G) with iPhone OS 4 at WWDC the week of June 7, and AT&T to release it later the same month, why would AT&T want to release the new BlackBerry 9800 slider running OS 6.0 at around the same time?

Since 2007 the iPhone has been AT&T's summer blockbuster. It's been the phone that got the users and made the numbers, quarter after quarter. Some would go so far as to say iPhone exclusivity is the only thing that's kept AT&T competitive with their arch-rival, Verizon.

Rewind. Back in March our sibling site CrackBerry.com did a Q&A roundup about the BlackBerry Slider, which could end up being part of the Bold lineup. A full, capacitive touchscreen device with a Palm Pre-style vertical slider it would give the BlackBerry faithful the Storm-like experience needed to compete in today's mainstream smartphone market, but keep the industry-leading physical keyboard those same faithful are so loathe to do without. And CrackBerry thought it was going to be released on AT&T, and in the summer.

Today Boy Genius added fuel to that fire, saying the BlackBerry Bold 9800 slider would launch on AT&T in June, be exclusive for 3-6 months, and that AT&T had placed an incredibly large order for the device -- easily exceeding 1,000,000 units.

Repeat. Why would AT&T want a huge order of an exclusive, powerfully branded, touchscreen smartphone with keyboard differentiation at the same time they've traditionally, and successfully launched their heretofore exclusive new iPhones?

Since I've sworn off Verizon iPhone rumors this week, including rumors of Verizon iPhone ads, manufacturers and equally large manufacturing runs, and increasing chatter, I'll let you answer that in comments.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 42 comments. Add yours.

Deran says:

Very interesting... and that thing is ugly!!!

OmariJames says:

So you're trying to say that since AT&T wants exclusive rights over the 9800 , it might be possible that AT&T may no longer have the iPhone exclusively this summer ?
Hmm. Well I don't see anything wrong with AT&T improving their phone catalog. I haven't read anything saying that AT&T must not have any other phone in their catalog that remotely competes with the iPhone as apart of their 5 year contract.
Business wise, it makes sense that AT&T might want to preserve the iPhone's sales by not cannibalizing it with other devices.
However , AT&T needs to prepare for 2012 now.

mkoby says:

AT&T might want exclusivity on the new Bold and buy lots of units because they understand that GASP not everyone will want an iPhone. I know, I know, this might be hard for people here to grasp, but it just MIGHT be true.

Shrike says:

How's this any different from the Bold? Or any other phone exclusive on a carrier?

ChrisJ says:

att no that many in business do not like iphone and touch phone. blackberry is good for interprize. i tell my workers to use iphone and they say no it do not work for travel. they travel many days across earth. options are good. i do not want it. my workers poke fun of me and say i am limited. i not mad but i have apps like the sims. they do not and they 2 get mad. yay for us's.

Mrjr says:

I think it means, very simply, that AT$T realizes that it's important to have a full complement of smartphones to be competitive. These carriers "play for keeps" in a very literal sense. AT$T is also starting to offer Android devices, albeit not the lust-worthy big slates that are so hot right now. I don't think they consider Blackberrys To be in the same category as iPhone. That is to say, I doubt they feel like the 9800 will hurt iPhone sales, whereas a slab Snap-droid might. In short: there's little detriment to an exclusive on the 9800, and AT$T could possibly secure other subscribers looking for a more consumer-oriented(?) Blackberry.

Mrjr says:

In fact, I think AT$T would be thrilled for you to buy this instead. Likely lower subsidy to RIM, likely lower bandwidth consumption, and less pressure to hand out yearly (early upgrade) subsidies.

Chris says:

I believe there are a lot of factors in it. I agree with improving their catalog, it's good business and in order to improve their network they need a diverse catalog so people will stay with them. It's true, an iPhone isn't for everyone, I love it but I know people who hate it. Plus looking at it from a different angle, people have other options and that still give them a chance to upgrade to an iPhone. If they are not customers then it is a lot harder.

Mrjr says:

I get the sense that AT$T somewhat resents all the pressure on their infrastructure and network of this iPhone business.

Ryan D. says:

Maybe Apple is delaying the new iPhone due to leaks, so AT&T needs an understudy to fill the "summer blockbuster" role. They can get their numbers while anticipation and mystery builds to a fever pitch for iPhone 4th Gen.

rgar3388 says:

@Ryan D...I really hope that's not true. My 3gs got soaked so I'm just counting down the day for the new iPhone. I can't last much longer with this palm centro. Dare I get a bold.

Chris says:

Lol. I don't think those leaks were an accident. Since iPhones are only once a year, I think it was a way to sway the people who were on the fence about waiting for a new iPhone.

zeagus says:

It serves a different market and they need to service all potential markets to best VZW.

fastlane says:

Sometimes, one doesn't even have to look at the article — only the headline and the photograph.
Ughhh... :roll:

UntidyGuy says:

They probably put the Blackberry and the Pre side-by-side and figured they would sell a lot more Blackberrys.

dustinae says:

Maybe its because no one cares about BlackBerry anymore. I dont think the same people interested in an iPhone are would be interested in this phone. Maybe I am wrong.

Kyle says:

AT&T has a history of wanting the best blackberry handsets. Bold. Bold 9700. They have a lot of bussiness customers that need blackberry. Also I think they wan to have more verity of smartphones ontheir network. Not just the iPhone. If Verizon seems to be teaming with google a lot so I don't see apple and Verizon getting hitched. I think it's a good relationship they have with rim.

Tallbruva says:

iPhone and Blackberry are different demographics. Not to mention, according to the latest numbers, it's still a top 3 phone OS. It would be foolish to not release it.
I agree that they shouldn't release them at the same time. Stagger them. I say release the Blackberry first, then the iPhone. Grab all the Blackberry customers they can. The media will do the heavy lifting for iPhone.

Derek says:

I hope they reduce the chrome, it makes it look fake and ugly.

Graham says:

My experience is that Blackberry Faithful will stick with BB and iPhone faithful the same. AT&T has more to lose by NOT releasing this new BB slider because if they don't jump on it, it is much easier for them to lose BB users to Big Red or Tmobile. If they DO jump on it, they might just gain some Verizon or Tmo users. Different demographic, different type of user.
I have watched many go from BB to iPhone (Myself included). Some stay some go back. I stayed with my iPhone and have adapted well as an iPhone business user, but I have seen just as many go back to their trusty Blackberry as stick with the iPhone.
IMHO - Good move for AT&T

icebike says:

AT&T sees enterprise flight from the iPhone, (or perhaps it is iPhone's flight from enterprise) as a good reason to lock up a more business oriented platform.
There are a lot of corporate BB accounts that are looking to replace two or three year old handsets, and this is the path of least resistance for those companies.
I think its that simple.

icebike says:

There seems to be a lot of people who post on this blog with the spell check feature of their iPhone turned off.

petaf says:

@icebike, agree w/you re spellcheck. :(
Well, I'm excited about the 9800 BB slider coming to AT&T, with it's updated OS (6), larger touch screen, and slide-out keyboard. It will sell very well. I have both an iphone 3G and the 9700 Bold and although I love my Bold, it's a bit small.

petaf says:

Oooops, 'its'!!!! my bad!

Jon says:

I don't know. Why would you want to have a Porsche and Ferrari in your garage?!

rick2123 says:

"att no that many in business do not like iphone and touch phone. blackberry is good for interprize. i tell my workers to use iphone and they say no it do not work for travel. they travel many days across earth. options are good. i do not want it. my workers poke fun of me and say i am limited. i not mad but i have apps like the sims. they do not and they 2 get mad. yay for us’s."
hahahaha jeez, what company are you in charge of? Please let me know so i can stay far far away.

firesign3000 says:

I think the answer is pretty simple, really. Not everyone wants an iPhone. Lots of people use Blackberrys. Why would AT&T want it? To make money, of course. They'll sell lots of both. I highly doubt it has anything to do with losing exclusivity of the iPhone.

Rob says:

I don't know, why would Att want the newest, most polished, and hyped up blackberry in it's roster?...............weird

excaliburca says:

Not everything in AT&T revolves around the iPhone... I haven't seen anything that says the iPhone it's been mass adopted by the business community yet. It's just AT&T being smart and covering all of their bases.
The tone of this article seems really stuck up to me...

GinoDotCom says:

"Not everything in AT&T revolves around the iPhone"
this makes for good discussion but we shouldn't look too deep into AT&T wanting to 1-up verizon on a particular unit that's not an iphone.

jlc says:

As others have pointed out, having a top of the line BB helps ATT in the enterprise market. The iPhone is has a number of deficiencies hat make it less appealing ti business users, so it makes sense for ATT to add phones that better address that market's needs.

robnaj says:

AT&T likes exclusives they can't get the Storm so they ordered a BB touch phone for there users that has a keyboard ect

Edie says:

Then why do the leaks have a SIM tray? Hmm, exactly! That says a lot. Let alone, I'd doubt it's gonna go to T-Mobile..

@cansforjasper says:

At&t did this solely to get business accounts upgraded, and hopefully entice new small biz revenue.
Also, with BB's history with releases I would bet we see this in late July - early August. I doubt at&t and even blackberry would would try to compete with the new iPhone in June.

@cansforjasper says:

*would want to try to compete lol wow

Kev says:

The reason is simple, choice. Remember there are still more BB users than iPhone users. I see lots of BBs and it's not just the corporate types own them. AT&T is wise not putting all the eggs in one basket, no matter how well made that basket is.

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santos says:

i agree with michael koby.

Mark J. McPherson says:

Why? Because there are a lot of Blackberry users out there who will jump at a significant advance. If the inventory volume is accurate, that suggests to me that the 9800 will be the goods. Apple is always the darling of the tech-press's eyes, and the be-all/end-all of the fanboys. Blackberry users are dully loyal, and RIM has had some measure of success these last few years of the Golden Apple Phones. Also, if anyone's keeping count, Verizon is selling a lot of Blackberries, and surprisingly, a lot of kids like them. Its a fair bet that the Iphones will mean more p.i.t.a. for the AT&T network, orders of magnitude heavier draw-down than a like number of Blackberries. And I've always had a sneaking suspician that all of the non-Iphone AT&T customers are subsidizing the Iphone sales.

JShaw says:

Let's not forgot that Blackberry still holds the market for smartphone devices.