NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- There are many people who think Apple ( AAPL) is going to do to the world of TV what it did to the world of phones with the iPhone.
In the case of iPhone, Apple took a lot of power from the telecom carriers. It was able to negotiate to create features such as visual voice mail that had never existed. It held out for it from AT&T ( T). In exchange for this and other things Apple wanted to control, Apple was willing to give AT&T an exclusivity period for several years (in America).
Make no mistake, five years from now, the television industry will have been deeply affected by Apple TV.
Of course, the iPhone was such a hit Apple was able to bring the iPhone to multiple carriers in the U.S. and never faced any carrier restrictions in other countries. The iPhone has been a net positive for all carriers. Carrying a hit phone is good for them. Ending unlimited data plans is good for them. Training users to become data hogs is a good thing for them -- unless they can't afford to upgrade their networks. It's clearly set them up for being perceived of as "just" a pipe now and in the future, though. It's probably going to be tougher and tougher for any of them to differentiate from each other. It's now been five years since its introduction of the iPhone, and the other handset makers have been decimated. With the exception of Samsung, there's not another handset maker in the world that has been able to show it can make any money. Weaker ones are out of business. Stronger ones are trying to mimic the iPhone as much as they can. A couple of formerly dominant players -- Nokia ( NOK) and Research In Motion ( RIMM) -- seem on their deathbeds. Google has come from nowhere five years ago to be a dominant player today, but still hardly makes any money at it. Motorola ( MOT) used to make good money selling Razr phones and now we'll see if Google ( GOOG) finds what it needs with its purchase of Motorola Mobility. The most profound changes iPhone wrought are really in what we -- as users -- expect from our phones and how we use them. Don't forget, there was a reason many people called the original iPhone a "Jesus Phone": It has made a post-PC world possible. We now expect to get the full power of the Web on our phones.