I've always felt that the alliance between mobile operators and handset manufacturers was on the way out, or at least should be on the way out.
Operators want consumers to pick their network, handset manufacturers want consumers to pick their equipment, but the consumer picks both based on factors that are often superficial.
The place where an alliance between these two works best is where there is a set of services that 'just work' straight out of the box.
As the connectivity barriers and costs become lower, the pre-provisioned services become more important. But how can the operators and handset manufacturers differentiate themselves when voice, data & messaging are essentially basic features?
The operators have nothing, they are just the pipe, which makes it surprising that the handset manufacturers are prepared to acquiesce to their demands.
An alliance between Nokia and Facebook or Sony Ericsson and MySpace would make a lot more sense. Preloaded application that lets you interact with the community from the handset.
[Update: I did a search on the web to see if someone had already done this and found Ben Arents site ]
The Facebooks and MySpaces (and LinkedIn, Xing etc) are the new networks, and they don't care which IP provider you choose. (There's obviously MVNO potential here, but it needs to be done right - and I've never seen one done right)
If you were an Orange or a Vodafone and you were faced with one of the combinations above, how much would you pay to be on the ticket?
It can't be long before the operators lose their power over the handset manufacturers, and that will make the world much, much more interesting.