The iPhone has sparked a number of changes in how the mobile industry approaches music and other entertainment content, and few operators are as intimately aware of the affect that device has had as AT&T--the exclusive provider of the iPhone in the U.S. In a preview to his Keynote appearance at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live conference, taking place Oct. 6 in San Diego, AT&T's director of premium content Rob Hyatt discusses some of the bigger lessons learned from the iPhone experience, and how the mobile industry is adjusting to the changing landscape.

There's a perception that mobile music has not met expectations. Do you agree?
It's been a success, but I think there's still a lot of upside. Ringtones and ringback tones have certainly been a really big business and caused artists and the music industry to really pay attention to mobile. The real challenge for us collectively is-what's next? Great start, but now what?

There have been a lot of changes to the mobile content business in the last few years, particularly due to the iPhone. What is the biggest lesson you've learned from that?
Probably the biggest success of mobile music is the portability of someone's own music. That ease of use of PC and mobile device are clearly huge successes. It's that ease of use of getting music on the mobile device and listening to it while doing other things. It's a really powerful user experience that sets the bar for everything else we do.

What of those lessons can we expect to see manifested in AT&T's offerings separate from the iPhone?
Some of them we actually started doing before the iPhone came out, such as the music ID feature with a link to buying the song on the backend. We charged for the ID service and also made money on any sales as a result. On the iPhone, the Shazam [music ID app] really took off because there's no barrier to buy it upfront, but the developer and everyone can still profit because there's a fair amount of tracks being bought on the backend. So that synergy around pricing is an eye opener for us. You can charge for some things and other things you can let commerce happen. We've taken all that in and built that into our products going forward.

How has the mobile content ecosystem changed?
There's clearly an opening up in the ways for consumers to access content. We've been a big advocate of being open. We see more and more traffic from people downloading content from alternate Web sites and off-portal stores. So what's changed the most is those alternatives. We've really seen the maturation of the model and increase of choice. The other dynamic is that there's a lot more to learn from as a result. What's worked well, what hasn't? That's all been useful for us.

In what ways has the relationship between operators and labels changed?
If I think about the ringtone days, in the heyday, it was very much about the labels trying to get artists to record more stuff while in studio. We were just building up inventory. Now that the catalog is bigger, the game is really around the promotional aspect of content - a full track, promotional track, a ringback, a ringtone - having those assets available and able to buy as a bundle and really identify with the artist. There's been a significant evolution on both.

What is the opportunity for smaller, emerging artists in mobile? Until now mobile has seemed to be more of a format for hits than for discovery/exposure.
I think to date that's true. The side of mobile that's the big draw for emerging artists probably isn't the storefront, but the social and communication aspects. If you can get text addresses you can build up communication lists. Today's mobile isn't a great discovery platform yet, from a pure content play. It's more powerful for small artists as a communication and social medium. I think that's changing. It used to be whatever was in the top 10 sales menu was your top 10 sales just by default. Now there's enough content there and a breadth of content coming in that there's a lot of sales happening as a result of search. That tells me consumers are not just buying the top things in their genre, but that they're going in and more methodically and searching for what they want. People are using services like music ID to tag songs they want to buy.

What do you think of these on-demand streaming apps from Rhapsody, and soon Spotify? That kind of service been limited due to network capacity/costs. Have those problems been solved?
The buzz around streaming services is that people want what's new. Sometimes they want to lean back and let it play. When they discover stuff they want to go deeper on-demand. There's something big there, but there have been a set of barriers in the way. I think slowly we're knocking those down. Ultimately, if consumers can get the big jukebox in the sky, there's really potential if we can nail the interest of all parties. If you look at the success of Pandora on the iPhone, and they're not the only one, people really want access to music. I think they'll consume music all day as much as they can.

Can the network handle that demand?
We've been investing like crazy in the networks. Ultimately the time is good for people to start adopting music services in a big way. I don't think we're in a bad place from a timing perspective in terms of handling all the incremental traffic. The challenge for subscription is to convince people $10-$15 a month is a value for all the world's music. I don't worry about the network piece [because] I think it's going to take a while for people to adopt it.

Hyatt will participate in a Keynote Interview along with Verizon Wireless director of business development and partner management Ed Ruth at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live, taking place Oct. 6 in San Diego as part of the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference, where these and other topics will be explored. Other Keynotes include conversations with Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and Blackberry creator Research in Motion. A full agenda and registration details are available at www.billboardevents.com.