Sprint exec says enterprise buyers want tablets and it will offer a WiMax 4G tablet starting in 2011. Updated with statement from T-Mobile.
Speaking in an interview with Forbes, Sprint’s President of Business Markets Paget Alves said that the company plans to introduce a tablet device in 2011 with WiMax on board. Alves didn't provide any specifics about the tablet, though he indicated that it will soon sell tablets that run "other operating systems."
Samsung sells just one tablet now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Tab runs Google's Android operating system and is limited to Sprint's 3G network. (Why it didn't have 4G from the get-go is beyond me).
Alves didn't explain what he meant by "other operating systems," but the remark leaves the door wide open for speculation. We know that Research In Motion expects to start selling its PlayBook tablet in the early months of 2011. RIM will sell those tablets through partnerships with the wireless network operators. Will RIM step up and make sure its tablet has WiMax on board when it launches with Sprint? I'd say the chances are 50/50 (after all, RIM is just getting around to adding 3G radios to its low-end BlackBerries).
There are other tablet systems out there that remain a possibility. I'd discount Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 right now, but can definitely see Sprint team up with Palm/HP on a webOS-based tablet. Palm has indicated that it will scale webOS to the tablet form factor, and Sprint and Palm have a historic relationship of launching platforms and products together.
Alves expects the bulk of purchases to come from enterprise IT departments. "The adoption rate for tablets in the business sector is much, much faster than we expected," said Alves. He noted that knowledge workers are always looking for something lighter and less bulky to take out on the road.
Will 4G be the selling factor or the device/platform itself? Alves doesn't count out the appeal of Sprint's WiMax network. "We've been in this market for over two years," he said. "We’ve had a lot of time to work with our customers and build up a portfolio of 4G devices and services."
On December 5, Verizon Wireless launched its Long Term Evolution 4G network. Initial testing shows the network supports speeds between 5Mbps and 12Mbps, as Verizon claims. Those speeds are a bit faster than what Sprint's WiMax network can deliver, but Verizon won't have any LTE-equipped phones or tablets until well into 2011.
T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is already live in many of the U.S's top markets, and it, too, bests Sprint's WiMax network speeds.
Late on Friday afternoon, T-Mobile issued a statement, apparently in response to today's reports about a Sprint 4G tablet.
"T-Mobile is working closely with the majority of our OEM partners to deliver 4G products by integrating HSPA+ into roadmaps in 2011 as the dominant global standard. Consumers will continue to see HSPA+ fuel future innovation in a variety of mobile consumer electronics from smartphones and tablets to emerging devices. T-Mobile will continue to be at the forefront of wireless innovation, delivering an aggressive 4G product lineup in 2011, including 4G tablets."
AT&T's HSPA+ network is out there, but AT&T doesn't have any devices such as a phones or tablets that can access it.
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