Word is that the House of Jobs is snuggling up to SIM card manufacturer Gemalto, in order to produce a unique baby: an iPhone that can be purchased online or at an Apple store, then activated over the web on the customer's network of choice. Yes, you read that correctly: a semi-unlocked iPhone with a hardwired SIM that uses flash memory to grab the desired carrier info.
As you recall, the Nexus One was originally offered as a Web-only purchase, either unlocked (at full price), or with a subsidized price tag on a two-year T-Mobile contract. But Google never got the magic combination of phone, network, and ecommerce to mesh, and the Nexus eventually got lapped by the carrier-specific Droids and Evos of the world.
Right now, the (still rumored) uber-iPhone is most likely planned for European consumption, where every country has standardized on the same cell-network protocol — unlike us damn Yankees and our free-enterprise alphabet soup of competing network standards — and it's not uncommon for multiple carriers in any one locale to be offering their own iPhones. It also promises to make international roaming a breeze, since the hardwired SIM could easily be reprogrammed to grab a new network through a quick PC tethering.