Reseller outrage was expected. But, surprisingly, it never came.
As Apple's local arm moved to sell unlocked iPhones exclusively online and through its retail stores, you would have thought there would be at least one Apple reseller up in arms at missing out on business.
The first indications of Apple selling the iPhone began in May when the US online store started offering it to customers willing to get an AT&T contract. An Australian Apple representative said it was not pushing the popular smartphone online at the time, instead pointing to its telco partners and self-branded retail outlets.
But last week, after the launch of the iPhone 3GS, Apple changed its tune and started providing unlocked devices through its Australian store. Clearly, it's a move which may have an adverse effect on its indirect sales channel.
ARN tried to determine the impact of this news on Apple resellers, which had been excluded from a potentially lucrative opportunity, and anticipated a noisy and angry reaction from the vendor's resellers. Well, we at least thought some of them would have been peeved enough to talk. After all, if Apple has the capacity to sell unlocked iPhones by itself, why not make the device available to the rest of its sales channel?
It's certainly a question I would be asking the powers that be at Apple.
But on the contrary, most resellers were reluctant to speak out against the organisation. Questions were dodged with a hasty "no comment" followed by a prompt phone hang-up.
Finally, one Apple reseller, while not wishing to be named, did agree to speak with ARN about the situation. Six hours later, I received an email from the managing director which said he could not comment. Upon further questioning, it was revealed that he received a phone call from the vendor, instructing him to stay out of the issue. It's a classic Apple tactic - hyper-controlling all comment to the media.
In these tough economic times, many companies are opting to nurture their channel base and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. Apple is taking the opposite route, making decisions that erode its partner relations bit by bit.
With the iPhone's popularity showing no signs of abating, resellers may still see a glossy Apple. Perhaps there are no hard feelings between partners and vendor, but how many times can they get messed around? Because no matter how pretty the fruit is, the rotten core always leaves a nasty taste.