Web 2.0 Summit: The Big Wet Kiss–Mike Arrington interviews Ralph de la Verga, AT&T

The ballroom at the Palace is filled with dark suits, big screens, flickering laptops. Mike Arrington is on stage interviewing ATT head Ralph de La Verga about his products.  This is the big wet kiss kick off for Thursday;

Mike may squewer people on TechCrunch, but at Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle (and TechWeb’s) show, he’s a pussycat, as genial and mild as Lou Dobbs.  Ralph, of course, is the consummate pitchman; he’s invoked the JD Power awards 3 times in the last 5 minutes, and said “great” about 1,000 times.

Is it bad form to wonder what ATT paid to be get this slot? What sort of sponsorship or influence exchange led to this sweet high school prom of a fireside chat on this sunny morning in San Francisco, 2 days after the US elected Baraka Obama our next President, and right in the middle of our economy going splat?

The iPhone: Mike wants to talk about that. Ralph uses the iPhone and another that Mike won’t let him talk about…no, it’s the Blackberry Bold, which went on sale election day (and Ralph says the BB just about sold out in the first 2 days…does this mean this talk is really about AT&Ts value as a stock buy as everything else tanks?)

Is there a slowdown in selling the iPhone this quarter? Mike asks.

Why no, Ralph responds, why no..despite the bad economy, we’re selling like crazy–and we have this little texting device, under $100(commercial plug)
(Susan sez” If you did the ROI on this talk, would it be reasonable to assume that the cost of securing it has a far better ROI–given how targeted and blogger-friendly the conference is–than just about any form of advertising?

Ralph says his phone is a key part of his ritual–everything from using it as an alarm, to reading email, etc. And now Mike wants to see what the audience uses–iPhones and Blackberrie lead, of course.
Side note– (Susan sez: Every single person sitting in front of me is wearing a black or navy or brown sweater or suit coat; in the cluster of 30 people in the audience around me, 4 are women.)

Okay, Mike woke up at the end and asked some needly questions, sigh of relief.