I had gone to RadioShack to get the batteries in my cordless phones replaced when I noticed the displays for various cell phone providers, including one for AT&T.; As the salesman was digging for my replacement batteries, I half-jokingly asked him when the store would be getting the iPhone.
To my surprise, he answered seriously. "They told us we were getting them in January," he replied, "But we haven't seen any yet." He suggested he still expects to see iPhones in his RadioShack at some point.
True, this guy is at the bottom of the communication chain and could have been mistaken. But my sense was that the promise he had heard came from an authoritative source.
It's not such a ridiculous notion. RadioShack currently sells Apple's line of iPods and AT&T; phones. In addition, AT&T; is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the U.S.
As for incentives, RadioShack would love to offer the iPhone. It's a sexy product of the sort RadioShack has in very short supply and would help generate traffic into the struggling chain's stores. People coming to shop for an iPhone might buy some of that other odd electronic clutter you find there.
The more puzzling question is why Apple (or AT&T;, for that matter) would feel the need to add RadioShack to the iPhone distribution channel.
It could be a simple numbers game. Apple sells the iPhone through its 170-plus U.S. Apple Stores, strategically located in high-end malls but not necessarily convenient for everyone. AT&T; sells the iPhone through 1,800 of its retail locations.
But RadioShack has nearly 6,000 stores in the United States and 800 wireless phone kiosks. Putting RadioShack on the iPhone team would make it more convenient for more people to buy an iPhone (well, in the U.S. anyway).
Apple's motive for partnering with RadioShack is its ambitious sales goals for the iPhone. The company's objective is to sell 10 million iPhones in 2008; adding 6,800 locations could help a little.
That also would fit in with Apple's aggressive iPhone marketing strategies. Recall the six months of hype before anyone could even buy the product. Recall the rollout just months later into the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Recall the recent release of the iPhone SDK to permit developers to write software for the iPhone.
And Apple's move to give the iPhone corporate-compatible features to attract enterprise customers is almost shockingly out of character for a company that has for years willfully ignored business customers.
RadioShack selling iPhones? Crazier things have happened.