Verizon's Seidenberg: We were never in the running for first iPhone

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) was not considered a serious partner by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for the first iPhone, according to Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg. However, the Verizon chief said now that Verizon has the iPhone in its portfolio, it can collaborate closely with Apple on an LTE version of the phone. 

Verizon was notoriously tight-lipped about its relationship and dealings with Apple ahead of its announcement this week of plans to carry a CDMA version of the iPhone 4, breaking AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) exclusive hold on the device. However, in a candid interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, Seidenberg talked about how Verizon's relationship with Apple developed.

Seidenberg said it was clear Apple wanted to focus on AT&T's GSM network technology and that it was not going to make a phone for both GSM and CDMA, which is why it went with AT&T. Seidenberg said Apple did not make unreasonable demands during the original negotiations before AT&T launched the iPhone in 2007. "That was all part of the sort of mating dance they were going through," he said. "But most of that [was] used not against us, but used against the carriers they ended up signing with, all right? So no, I didn't think the terms were all that serious because we were never in the running."

Since the iPhone's launch, Verizon and Apple have held extensive discussions; Verizon even installed CDMA antennas at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus. Seidenberg argued Apple will have an advantage in next-generation technology thanks to Verizon's recent LTE deployment. "I would also make this point: We're further along in 4G than others are," he said. "So I think this decision, from Apple's standpoint, is also very strategic because they get to establish a relationship with us early in their cycles to take advantage of the 4G stuff that's going to come out over the next 12 months. If you do your job well, then in an industry like this, eventually the right partners are going to end up on the dance floor."

Interestingly, Seidenberg gave the strongest indication yet that Verizon's Lowell McAdam is next in line to ascend to the top spot at Verizon once Seidenberg retires this year. "I just got a letter in the mail that the pioneers of the Bell system will celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2011," he said. "I've worked here for 45 years. I've been CEO for 15. McAdam is a really, really good guy, and he's 56 years old. For me to stay ... it's almost a little selfish."

For more:
- see this BusinessWeek article

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