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12/21/2007
10:06 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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The Top 5 Mobile Stories Of 2007

This year has been a heck of a ride in the world of mobility. We've seen success and failure, love and hate, and tons of new technology. Here are the five biggest stories of the year. I'll bet you'll never guess what number 1 is.

This year has been a heck of a ride in the world of mobility. We've seen success and failure, love and hate, and tons of new technology. Here are the five biggest stories of the year. I'll bet you'll never guess what number 1 is.5. WiMax Ups and Downs -- WiMax had a crazy year, one that started out with lots of promise. Let's rewind a bit. August 2006, Sprint is the first of the major carriers to announce its 4G platform of choice, WiMax. This sets the WiMax industry ablaze and kick-starts everything into gear. The momentum lasted well into 2007, and even in the summer we saw some exciting things taking place. Sprint announced a major partnership with Clearwire to blanket large swathes of the U.S. with its 4G network. It appeared as though WiMax's impact was going to be large and widespread. Then things began to fall apart. Sprint struggled through a tough year. Its investors got antsy. It lost its CEO. The deal with Clearwire fell apart. And the initial WiMax trials set to take place this year are barely getting off the ground according to plan. Sprint still says it is committed to WiMax, but rumors are flying around that Sprint will sell its WiMax division. Some of the industry's largest players, including Ericsson, Intel, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung all stand to lose a lot if Sprint's WiMax venture falls apart. The end of this story isn't written yet. Let's hope 2008 brings it a happy ending.

4. "Openness" -- This has been a hotly debated issue over the course of the last six months. The extremely locked-down nature of Apple's iPhone contributed to the argument, but so has the rankled ire of politicians, who feel consumers are being treated unfairly by the wireless network operators. Lawsuits against the operators were filed in California and Washington. Many believe that devices should not be locked to one network operator or another. And people feel that they should be able to install the applications and services of their choosing on their devices, without having to go through the operators. Well, the industry responded, to a degree. Sprint said it would begin activating non-Sprint phones on its network for customers interested in using their own phones. Verizon said it would allow customers to use any application on any device starting next year. AT&T's CEO said that AT&T had the most open network in the United States. So far, though, this is all just words. We need to see some action in 2008.

3. Verizon's Move to LTE -- Just a few weeks ago Verizon picked its 4G technology platform. Long Term Evolution is one of many high-speed wireless data technologies that will be used by network operators around the world in a few years. To date, Verizon has been using a network based on Qualcomm's CDMA technology, which is incompatible with many of the networks used elsewhere, especially in Europe. Probably due to its partnership with U.K.-based Vodafone, Verizon decided to switch gears entirely and pick the standard that most other network operators will likely choose: LTE. This means over the coming years, Verizon will have to transition all of its network to new technology, all of its handsets, and force all of its customers to adopt the LTE-based phones. This is going to take time and resources, but when all is said and done, Verizon customers will be able to roam the world more freely and know that their phones will be compatible with foreign networks. This is a major shift in strategy and technology for the nation's second-largest wireless operator.

2. Android -- In early November, Google dropped a bomb on the mobile world. It announced that rather than simply offering free mobile applications to people, it was going to create its own Linux-based mobile platform with better integrated applications and services. Creating mobile operating systems is no easy task. Google and its Open Handset Alliance partners are hoping to forge a brand new paradigm in the mobile arena. By offering a cheap(er) mobile platform that is easy to develop for, the industry can bring new technologies to market sooner. Software developers, handset manufacturers, and network operators have all indicated that they are willing to play ball with Google on this one. Google will be entering a fiercely competitive market. Other mobile platforms, which also have wide developer bases, have huge head starts with hundreds of millions of customers. Google is aiming high, but if it hits the mark, it could have a major impact on the future of mobility.

1. iPhone -- In the grand scheme of things, the iPhone really isn't as important as the preceding four events of 2007. It's one device, available from one network operator in the United States. But I think its impact has been widely felt and already is causing certain shifts in the industry. Its easy-to-use, touch screen-based user interface taught the world that a mobile operating system can be fun, intuitive and -- more to the point -- not painful to use. In response, manufacturers such as HTC and LG already have unleashed new touch screen-based products on the market. More will follow. Nokia has committed to creating a touch-enabled version of its world-leading S60 smartphone platform. Aside from the touch factor, the iPhone also has stirred more controversy (its locked nature, and the iBricking debacle) and created more news than anything else in the mobile world in 2007. It has dominated headlines since it was announced in January. It will probably continue to do so well into 2008.

So there you have it, The top 5 stories in the world of mobility. Do you agree? Disagree? What do you think were the top 5 stories?

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