One of the most important aspects of the iPhone is how it's breathed the air of change into long stodgy, backwards thinking mobile cellular providers. We can argue whether its been less effective post iPhone 3G where subsidies have returned, but either way Apple fairly neatly removed the carrier middleman from its usual intrusive position in the smartphone space. App Store is clearly the crowning example thus far, but frequent firmware updates is sometimes likewise cited.

On the latest This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast, however, Digg founder Kevin Rose credited an unnamed source inside Apple as saying AT&T had to approve the next iPhone firmware update. Of course, Rose has been, er... somewhat less than accurate in regards to iPhone news in the past (including his reports that the iPhone 3G would have video iChat). In his corner this time, however, are server logs showing iPhone 2.0.1 traffic on popular Apple news sites originating from both Cupertino and AT&T HQ regions.

Has AT&T always played a role in firmware testing or is this a new factor in a post 3G world? If it's new, will it make 2.x updates take longer than 1.x did? And do international carriers like 02, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Rogers, Orange, etc. all have similar advanced testing privileges? If so, will 22+ (70+ eventually) carriers wanting to test new firmware result in huge delays or staggered launches? Or is this just another well Dugg tempest in a Royal Jasmine teapot?

On a side note, the same episode of TWiT saw the crankiest of geeks, John C. Dvorak "dot org slash blog" claim that one particularly damaging rumor circulating about Steve Jobs current health was deliberately and maliciously spread at an exclusive CEO gathering by an as-yet unnamed but well known executive with a personal grudge against Jobs and Apple. Dvorak maintains the rumor, which recent reports have indicated is false, was spread to other CEOs who then propagated it, adding to the confusion and downward pressure on Apple's stock. If he can get a second anonymous confirmation on the story, Dvorak claims he will name names in his Marketwatch column.

As a huge fan of Karma, that should make for an interesting day, and likely more than a "slime bucket" response from El Jobso.