Oops. Did I say that out loud?

See here. For once Cringely gets something right. His take on the AT&T dude’s “slip” about us releasing a 3G phone is that it wasn’t a slip at all and was done intentionally to hurt our iPhone sales over the holiday season. (The idea is that anyone with half a brain will hold off buying until the newer, better iPhone comes out. Luckily we still have the less-than-half-a-brain market to sell to, and frankly that’s really who we’ve been targeting all along. Think about it.)

I hate to say this but Cringely is right. Old Randall Stephenson (photo) from AT&T got up at a Churchill Club meeting (ground zero for tech dudes who fancy themselves “big thinkers” and “influencers”) and blurted out the stuff about a 3G phone. As soon as he was off the stage he called me and left me a voice mail where he said he was sorry then burst out laughing. Bastard.

Cringely thinks Randall is pissed because we’re going to jump in and join Google in bidding for this wireless spectrum and because I’m a buddy fucker who screws my friends and allies just for kicks. Money quote: “AT&T thought its five-year “exclusive” iPhone agreement with Apple would have precluded such a bid, but that just shows how poorly Randall Stephenson understood Steve Jobs. Steve always hurts his friends to see how much they really love him, so AT&T probably should have expected this kind of corporate body blow.”

Fari enough, that’s part of it. But really the reason is way more personal. He’s mad because every time we meet I make a point of getting his name wrong. I call him Randall Stephens. This is a business tactic that I use a lot. Ever heard of Sky Dayton? I call him Sky Dalton. Michael Ovitz? I call him Jerry Ovitz.

The idea is to keep your opponent off balance. Prey on their insecurities. Deep down, all these big business guys are secretly driven by some dark demon, and that demon is telling them, You’re shit, you’re shit, you’re shit. They’ve all developed this very loud inner voice to counter that which says, “I’m not shit, I’m important.” Fucking up their name totally pushes that “You’re shit” button. Makes them nuts. Katie points out that while this may be personally gratifying to me, in the case of Randall What’s-His-Name this has now cost us probably a billion dollars in market cap. I don’t know. Still seems worth it to me.