Apple has been accused of bungling the launch of the iPhone in Europe after another of its exclusive local partners was forced to make the device available on rival networks.
Analysts have questioned Apple’s strategy of entering into exclusive deals with operators in individual countries, saying the company has “underestimated” the difference between the US and European markets.
Apple has been forced to “unlock” the iPhone in Germany, scuppering its exclusive deal with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile, after rival Vodafone claimed the agreement broke national competition laws.
Meanwhile, the launch of the iPhone has been delayed in France, where – despite Apple signing an exclusive deal with France Telecom’s Orange – consumer protection laws prevent the locking of the iPhone to a single operator. The device finally goes on sale in France tomorrow (Thursday).
O2 – Apple’s UK partner – is the only operator with an exclusive deal that has not had to “unlock” the phone. But Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi believes the problems in France and Germany may force Apple to rethink its strategy. The company has yet to sign exclusive deals in a number of countries, including Italy and Spain.
She says: “Other countries will pick up on what has happened in France. If that happens Apple’s business model will be ruined.”
Apple has never confirmed the terms of the hotly contested exclusive deals, saying only that they are “multi-year”. But Milanesi adds: “Apple can’t grow its market share using the exclusive model and might be forced to change the way it does business. I think these latest problems will accelerate that.”