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Is Apple The Next Motorola, Nokia?

In the cellular industry, will Apple become the next Nokia or Motorola?

Remember when Motorola was on top of the handset heap in the ’90s? Then carriers began to chafe under the company’s demands for volume commitments of up to 75 percent of unit sales. Then there was Nokia, also riding high before carriers began to chafe under its “here’s-a-phone, now-go-sell-it” approach while other vendors were working closely with carriers during the product-development process.

Now some carriers are getting a little fed up with the Apple approach to doing business. Carriers are trying to bring down their subscriber acquisition costs, notably by reducing handset-subsidy costs. Apple prices its smartphone higher than anyone else, and carriers have to subsidize it more than any other smartphone.

Now some of the national carriers seem to be going out of their way to look for viable alternatives to reduce their dependency on the iPhone. And witness the willingness of the four national carriers and regional carrier U.S. Cellular to agree to use the Samsung Galaxy S III nomenclature on Samsung’s new flagship Android smartphone. In the past, carriers put their own names on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones to differentiate their offerings. Verizon called the S III predecessor the Samsung Fascinate, and AT&T called it the Samsung Captivate, while Sprint called it the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch.

Apple needs to work more closely and less antagonistically with its partners — and not just in cellular — or Apple risks losing support rapidly from its vendor partners as soon as it slips up in the marketplace. And at some point, like the many companies that rode high in April and were shot down in May, it will happen.

What say you?