Mobile // Mobile Devices
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12/9/2010
01:43 AM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Mobile Ends Year With A Whine And A Whimper

At the All Things D mobile conference, the major players say mostly nothing at all, and innovation emerged from a few surprising places, namely Plantronics (with Voyager Pro UC), RealNetworks (Unifi) and Jawbone (Thoughts).

Two sure signs that the mobile industry is taking a break: The major ecosystem players speak at a mobile conference and reveal nothing; and the only interesting announcement comes from a BlueTooth headset manufacturer (not to demean an excellent product evolution). Everyone from HP/Palm to Microsoft to RIM to AT&T and Sprint at The Wall Street Journal's All Things D: Dive Into Mobile event earlier this week equivocated, defended or dodged questions; in that, there was entertainment, and enough winks and nods to help gird for an exciting 2011.

Given the exciting dynamics of 2010, that will be no mean fete. Sprint, Clearwire and Verizon have started lighting up cities with 4G, Apple introduced the iPad and Samsung the Galaxy Tab, while smart phones have become smarter, bigger, faster and more reliable. Entire mobile application industries have arisen. Near Field Communication is . . . well, near.

Apple's iOS and Google's Android are now the mobile platforms to beat, and HP, Microsoft and RIM are jostling to reinvent themselves; Nokia and Symbian, long the leaders, are slip-slliding away, although Nokia has at least one last mobile gasp left.

Next year will be the year of . . . mass 4G introductions, tablet proliferation, mobile collaboration, dual core processors, and a re-emergence of at least one of the following: RIM, Palm, Microsoft.

4G Or Thereabouts

Clearwire and Verizon have started to provide 4G dongles; I've used the former with some success in the Bay area, and at least one person at the All Things D event was successful connecting to Verizon's recently lit LTE network. While T-Mobile has turned what is essentially 3.5G (HSPA+) into its version of 4G, AT&T seems non-commital on the specifics of its 4G plans. Glenn Lurie, the company's Emerging Device President told the audience AT&T was building its HSPA+ network, but still hadn't finished upgrading its backhaul infrastructure.

Unlike Verizon, which announced the cities it would light up and a timeframe for doing so (kicking off with service in 38 cities earlier this week), Lurie would only say that AT&T's 4G would roll out in 2011. He also insisted that customers don't care about 4G and HSPA+, just the ultimate experience.

Lurie, who said he talks to Apple CFO Tim Cooke daily, said that statistics showed marked improvement in AT&T's network; he noted the company's 97 million customers (he also said 93 million, but let's not quibble), a record number of new devices added and a record low in customer churn. He also mentioned that AT&T invested $18.5 billion in its network this year. But after getting spanked by Consumer Reports readers and being last to market with 4G, it's difficult to understand how it spent the $18.5 billion.

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