Wireless+: Changing the Game

There is an ever-increasing call for open-access, high-speed mobile data networks to enable everything from business applications to true Internet on the go, accessible from any device a device that most likely spans work and home life.

Users shouldnt have to choose which of the four texting accounts or five e-mail addresses they want to use thats yesterdays idea.
Microsofts Steve Ballmer
Photo provided by CTIA

The evidence? Witness social networking site Facebook Inc.s integration with BlackBerry smartphones; co-founder Danny Moskovitz reprimanded the industry to tear down the walled garden for good during his keynote at CTIA WIRELESS I.T. & Entertainment 2007 announcing the deal. Another example is Google Inc. and Skype lobbying the FCC for open-access mandates in the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction. A spokesperson for MySpace told PHONE+ at CTIA that he couldnt wait for the networks to be opened up and control over applications and devices wrested from the carriers, arguing it is the only way to leverage the power of the Internet for global good and the only way to spark true innovation. And, of course, there is always Sprint-Nextels claim that there will be 50 million WiMAX-embedded consumer electronics devices unaffiliated with any carrier by 2010.

For wireless dealers, the message is clear: wireless data is the next lucrative frontier when selling to business users, and it will pay off to understand the market drivers going forward. According to CTIA, there were 243 million wireless subscribers in the United States as of June 30; and wireless data service revenue for the first half of 2007 rose to $10.5 billion, a 63 percent increase over the first half of 2006.

Windows Mobile 6.0 gives users a messaging portal, among other capabilities.

A mobile version of Windows Live shows contacts with their available status.

Accordingly, this falls CTIA show ended up as a showcase for the wireless data movement. Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer took to the stage at the show in San Francisco to elaborate on Microsofts vision of a work/lifestyle wireless data world and announced Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 for enterprise mobile IT management while he was at it. User expectations have been transformed, he said. Phones keep getting smarter and running more powerful software. [Mobile phones are] the first real capital good that everyone expects to own. Its an amazing opportunity, he added, for everyone in the value chain, from operator to end user.

Ballmer said ubiquity creates fundamentally a new model of computing based on devices like phones and set-top boxes. The others are desktop computing, enterprise serverbased computing and online computing incorporating social networking and advertising. You have to meld these together, he said. Users shouldnt have to choose which of the four texting accounts or five e-mail addresses they want to use thats yesterdays idea.

LEFT: Facebook will soon be native on BlackBerries, traditionally enterprise devices.

RIGHT: The iPhone may be the first example of a work+life device, but certainly isnt the last.

To that end, Ballmer went on to discuss how Microsoft is working on the work and lifestyle side to overcome innovation and business model challenges inherent in such convergence. Most significantly, he announced the Mobile Device Manager, which will work with forthcoming Windows Mobile devices. An update for the phones in the second quarter of 2008 will allow the package to work. The software allows a self-service portal for users to register their phones as part of Active Directory, as they would a PC, and it also contains server-side tools for the IT department for point-and-click device management, policy/security applications, over the air software updates and applications loading, and a mobile VPN to give users access to resources behind the corporate firewall. A first partner is AT&T Inc., with which Microsoft worked to optimize the software for the operators 3G network, and for the AT&T BlackJack II smartphone, available by the end of the year for $150 after rebate and with a two-year contract.

Ballmer then went on to tackle the lifestyle capabilities of Windows Mobile, such as voice-activated Live Search, zoomable, color GPS maps and the ability to dial into Windows Media Center at home to program a DVR. Ballmer also mentioned that Microsoft is working to extend Xbox functionality to portable devices.

Microsoft is working to become a platform for innovation by investing heavily on the device side as well as in services to support rich application development. We want to weave together business models in a way that works for developers, telecom operators, users and software companies, he noted. [Users] want a phone that spans all of their work and life personae, in a wide selection of form factors. The phone is like a universal remote control for your life.

The sum total of all information, past, present and future, will be in the cloud, and that great repository of information will be made available anytime, anywhere, on any device. Its game-changing.
Sprints Atish Gude
Photo provided by CTIA

That sentiment is something with which Facebook is getting on board, too. Four-year-old Facebook has grown to 49 million active online users, and 4 million mobile users, with an increasing percentage of those users turning to the community for business networking. In fact, business users might be more likely to use Facebook services; according to ABI Research, business users spend much more time using data/multimedia services at significantly higher rates than personal users and spend 80 percent more on mobile data services than personal users.

T-Mobile USA Inc. will be the first carrier to bundle the Facebook Mobile app for its subscribers, but any user can download the software a crucial point for open access. Other social networking/user-generated content sites have relationships with various operators, such as MySpace with Helio LLC and YouTube with Verizon Wireless, but this marks one of the first carrier-agnostic deals. Moskovitz also has invited developers currently writing to the open PC-based Facebook platform to tackle the mobile version as well. Mobile is the next frontier, he says.

Sprint was on hand at CTIA as well, proselytizing its view of the coming wireless data explosion. Wireless dealers should, in short, be prepared to expand their stables of devices. Handsets have driven the bulk of the growth in wireless, but theres another industry looking to enhance the devices that are in peoples lives, says Sprints senior vice president of operations, Atish Gude. The consumer electronics numbers are staggering 62 million portable entertainment devices, 42 million imaging devices. Every car is a consumer electronics device. The phone, he notes, is a Swiss Army knife but is a master of voice. As networks are built that promise ubiquitous, broadband connectivity vis a vis WiMAX, consumer electronics devices purpose built for media consumption and image capturing will become wirelessly enabled and targeted to business and personal users alike.

All information will be digitized, says Gude. The sum total of all information, past, present and future, will be in the cloud, and that great repository of information will be made available anytime, anywhere, on any device. Its game-changing.

Key Stats

As of June 2007, there were more than 243 million wireless users, a year-over-year increase of nearly 24 million subscribers.
Wireless customers used more than 1.1 trillion minutes in the first half of 2007, up 18 percent over the first half of 2006.
Wireless revenues for the first half of the year were more than $67 billion.
Wireless data service revenues for the first half of 2007 rose to $10.5 billion, a 63 percent increase over the first half of 2006, when data revenues were $6.5 billion.
Wireless data revenues now amount to 15.5 percent of all wireless service revenues.
Text messaging set new records, with 28.8 billion messages reported in the month of June 2007 alone, an increase of 130 percent over June 2006.
2.6 billion multimedia messages were sent in the first half of 2007 almost as many as were sent in all of 2006.

Source: The CTIA Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey, October 2007

Apple Inc.
AT&T Inc.
Compete Inc.
Facebook Inc.
KORE Telematics
Microsoft Corp.
Research in Motion Ltd.
T-Mobile USA Inc.

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