AT&T asked RIM to make an iPhone competitor back in 2010

There’s a new report out today that claims that back in 2010, AT&T went to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, and asked them to create a touch-screen iPhone competitor.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. But perhaps the most important one is the fact that back in 2010, AT&T was still Apple’s exclusive iPhone partner here in the U.S…

The information comes in a lengthy report today by The Wall Street Journal, entitled: ‘Multiple Missteps Led to RIM’s Fall.’

“In 2010, AT&T Inc., then Apple’s exclusive carrier partner, approached RIM about a plan to develop a touch screen rival to the iPhone, said two former RIM executives. The chief of AT&T’s mobile division visited RIM’s research and development team in Waterloo to stress how important it was for AT&T to have a successful BlackBerry product to sell, according to people familiar with the visit.”

The deal was, AT&T was extremely worried that the iPhone’s popularity would give Apple too much influence in the market. In fact, there were several carriers that felt that way:

“Executives at Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC approached RIM to work together on a phone that could compete with the iPhone, say people familiar with the matter. The collaboration resulted in RIM’s first touch-screen device, the Storm.”

So essentially, carriers who weren’t offering the iPhone at the time were scared of the handset because they feared losing customers. And the ones that did carry the device were worried that Apple would gain too much power. With no carrier branding or bloatware, the iPhone isn’t exactly a wireless provider’s best friend.

At any rate, it’s still strange that even with the exclusive rights to the most popular-selling smartphone in the country, AT&T went behind Apple’s back looking for an alternative.

What do you think?