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Panel Unveils the Future of Wireless

Channel Partners attendees satiated their inner geeks on Wednesday when they heard from several device makers about the gadgets that soon will make their way to market. John Horn, national director for T-Mobile USA Inc., called on Samsung Electronics Co., Danger Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) to preview the prototypes that will be introduced sometime this year.

Samsung’s Sharon Ellis highlighted the company’s upcoming t809, t609, t509, t319 and t209 handsets, all of which are slated to be released in the second quarter. Most notably, the t809 is an Olympics-branded phone with Bluetooth capabilities, quad band, built-in camera, MP3 player, speakerphone, external memory card and wireless village (which means AOL, Yahoo! and other such subscribers can access their content). The t609 shares all of these features, except it comes in a flip clamshell style. The t509 is an ultra-slim “candy bar” style handset “that reminds me of a TV remote control,” Ellis said.

The t319 is an upgrade to Samsung’s 309; it is a lower-tier handset with VGA camera and separate speaker. The t209, a refresher to the 409, has an internal and external speaker and compact flip design.

Samsung also has two more handsets in development, but Ellis could not talk about them. Just stay tuned, she said, “because they are fabulous.”

Next, Thomas Madani, of Danger Inc., which makes the T-Mobile Sidekick, focused more on the popularity of the all-in-one device, as evidenced by its use by celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. “If celebrities love it, the people will buy it,” he said. Madani also noted that agents, VARs, resellers and others stand to make a lot of money by selling converged voice and data products, especially to consumers.

“We’ve been able to capture the future today,” he said of the Sidekick. Danger sells out of its new models every time it introduces them “because of the viral nature,” Madani explained. “One person gets it and shows it to a friend, and then they get it.”

Madani and RIM’s Peter Gould both referenced the emerging “prosumer” niche, which is made up of SOHOs and power users that go beyond the generic consumer. RIM, Gould said, focuses on selling more to enterprises, and said solutions providers will profit innumerably by selling BlackBerry devices. Of course, that depends on whether the company is able to emerge from the patent infringement lawsuit unscathed. Nonetheless, Gould said, “we have 10 million thumbs and counting,” and he urged Channel Partners attendees to add the BlackBerry to their list of offerings.

RIM does not discontinue its older products when it introduces new ones so, on those older versions, Gould said, solutions providers should start to see “lower price points.” One of the latest innovations in BlackBerry is the ability for enterprise users to access their companies’ back-office systems. A new software update, which should come out in 30-45 days, will present a “huge revenue opportunity” for channel partners, Gould said, because it will allow them to create applications for their customers. This hosted e-mail service will allow partners to charge monthly fees and count on ongoing revenue streams.

The preview was a kickoff to the wireless track, which continues today with two sessions in Jasmine B.


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