I haven't posted much on this, but I have to figure that AT&T is royally torqued by the unlocking of the iPhone - there goes their 5 year exclusive, burnt to ashes in about a month. Business Week sums up:
Apple (AAPL) and AT&T (T), the sole authorized supplier of the iPhone in the U.S., are doing what they can to make sure that legal clearance never comes. The two companies have put their lawyers on the case, applying pressure on hackers involved in unlocking iPhones to try to get them to stop. Much is at stake. AT&T has been hoping that as the exclusive provider of the iPhone, it will see a surge in new customers and monthly service charges of at least $60 from each one. Apple is supposed to get a cut of the revenues. If iPhones are unlocked, they can be used on the wireless networks of rivals like T-Mobile USA - and AT&T gets zippo. AT&T wouldn't comment for this story, while Apple didn't return a request for comment.
They might as well tilt against windmills. This is like the RIAA and MPAA using DRM - it mostly upsets paying customers, does nothing to stop piracy, and - most importantly - cannot be blocked. Apple and AT&T can get as many legal rulings as they want, and software hacks will be available on servers beyond the reach of the US legal system anyway.
It took something as interesting as the iPhone to make unlocked phones interesting in the US - I don't think that genie is about to go back into the bottle. You know what AT&T's best recourse would be at this point? Offer better service than the competition. Give people a reason to stay, rather than trying to barricade them in.
Of course, given their corporate history, I won't hold my breath for that to happen.
Update: CNet makes a point I had thought of, and agree with completely:
Unlocking a cell phone is neither illegal nor in any direct violation of laws. Apple can't stop anyone from unlocking a cell phone, and to be honest, I don't think it really cares. Apple is playing this recent iPhone unlocking news perfectly. If it overreacted and stopped the hack, it could stymie its future revenue gains, but if it endorses such a maneuver, it effectively leaves AT&T out to dry. Isn't it ironic that AT&T lawyers went knocking on the doors of the hackers while Apple lawyers sipped tea at home?
Yeah, I think that demonstrates the depths of Apple's concern nicely.