I suppose when you agree to subsidize the cost of a popular consumer product it buys you a little leverage in how said product is sold. That's the only reason why I can think that Steve allowed for AT&T to end home activation of the iPhone. This isn't a small step backwards, it's an orbital free fall. From here on out, every new purchase of an iPhone will require ten to twelve minutes of quality time with an expert who will rip out your soul, give it to AT&T, and then press the phone's on switch.
Ten to twelves minutes, per phone! Does anyone remember bread lines?
Whereas standing in line for a new Apple product in the past usually only took a few hours, this arrangement will usher in a new era of Soviet style queueing. Nevermind that last year I was able to activate it in three minutes in the comfort of my own home. Tens of thousands of us did this without any problems, but maybe that was just a fluke. After-all none of us are fully trained expert technicians who are skilled in the ways of turning a phone on for the first time. Only AT&T can provide that kind of experience and know-how.
I used to hate AT&T for all it's dropped calls and day-late text messages and voice mail delivery, now...well I don't know what you call bile inducing rage against stupidity.