Although there were a lot of complaints about how dull the show was this year (um, is it fair to ding a show that you didn’t bother attending?), I thought it was just what the doctor ordered. Maybe it’s because this is the place where anyone in the wireless industry is going to be every year, like clockwork.
Here are some of the things that caught my eye:
Android, Android everywhere
I’m almost tired about how much Android is in the press, but it really is worth mentioning again – this is the new Windows OS paradigm for mobile computing. A little chaotic, perhaps, lots of fragmentation, certainly, but omnipresent (and Apple is still Apple – closed, well-groomed and in control). The newest manifestations on parade included the HTC/Sprint EVO (lookie no touchie), Samsung Galaxy S, Kyocera Zio, and the list grows longer. The new Windows Phone 7 was being shown off, but like the Palm Pre/Pixi, it is clearly too little, too late. Both OS’s are nice, but I just don’t see them gaining that much traction.
Handset Winners – Samsung, HTC
LG had a massive Iron Man 2 display and a hot DJ spinning club tunes, but I wish they spent the money on something useful, like decent phones. Blackberry had the same rows of kiosks to download apps that they had at CES and CTIA last year, which unfortunately says a lot about how hard it is to “appify” a BB. Yes, it is easier to fly to a trade show, go to their booth, grab a contactless card and wave it at kiosks than it is to use Blackberry App World on your phone. Yeesh.
My favorite OEMs were Samsung and HTC – Samsung in particular. They had a plethora of cool stuff – a very nice HP picoprojector embedded into a phone, the amazing AMOLED screens (see Galaxy S above), interesting multiscreen home media solutions, and so on. HTC seems to have really broken out – they are transitioning from an anonymous white-label contractor to a decent brand in their own right. All of a sudden, they are everywhere, making the bulk of the coolest Android phones.
To be fair, Motorola is also making cool phones again, and given the post-RAZR dry spell, that’s saying something. However, my favorite thing at their booth was this intriguing wearable computing device called Golden-I (Bond will be suing them I’m sure). Sure, lots of folks have been trying to build something like this, but this one seems to work well. Voice-driven commands, decent Kopin microdisaplay, and bluetooth/WiFi connectivity with remote desktop means you don’t need to have too much storage on-device. 800MHz OMAP processor, and you’re good to go. The team says the intial focus is on industrial uses, or guys in hardhats who need their hands free to fix things.
Like Android, I’ve overdone this one so will keep it short. The carriers are all chugging ahead, and even Clearwire wants in on the game. It is clear to me that LTE will also provide the impetus (excuse?) for carriers to implement tiered pricing for data. In a competitive frenzy, they goofed on all-you-can-eat data plans, and will have to adjust. Users won’t be justified in complaining, especially if they are using their device to download bit-torrent files or providing connectivity to everyone in their dorm. Anyway, I’m looking forward to it, and it will be interesting to see if folks jettison their cable modems and DSL lines the same way they are dumping land lines, once LTE is in place.
Sprint is hoping to exploit that short window when WiMax is the only “4G” game in town this year. I am starting to wonder if maybe WiMax might get some legs after all – Cisco announced they are pushing WiMax for smart grid applications, and pricing for Sprint/Clearwire is starting to get more interesting. Time will tell –
For the love of God, when will carriers understand? The reason femtocells aren’t taking the world by storm is that even when faced with crappy coverage, people don’t want to PAY a carrier for a box to fix it, while doing them an enormous favor of OFFLOADING TRAFFIC onto their fixed broadband connection!! Change your pricing fellas – give the damn things away if you have to. The end result is happy customers and less traffic on your network – isn’t this a no-brainer?
And to finish, a word of caution – don’t punch an Olympic star, especially at a trade show. They have bodyguards with bad tempers!