New smartphones, faster networks and unveiled alliances will be at the center of next week's CTIA Wireless 2010 convention in Las Vegas, which runs from March 23-25. Big companies ranging from Microsoft to Verizon will demonstrate new devices, and featured speakers include AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and "Avatar" director James Cameron.
For many attendees, though, the prospect of an Academy Award-winning director discussing the virtues of mobile technology could be eclipsed by potentially paradigm-shifting announcements by wireless carriers.
The rumor-mill suggests that Sprint will unveil the first smartphone capable of running on an ultra-speedy 4G network via WiMax technology. "Our checks indicate that Sprint will launch a CDMA/WiMax handset at CTIA called the HTC Supersonic," Macquarie analyst Philip Cusick wrote in a research note, as quoted by Reuters on March 17. Other analysts are apparently backing that prediction.
Both Verizon and AT&T will likely discuss their efforts to bolster and expand their existing networks. Over the past few months, AT&T has found itself particularly hard-pressed by users of the popular iPhone to improve its carrier capability; the upcoming release of the Apple's iPad in April, which will include an optional 3G connection through AT&T, could place additional pressure on the network.
Verizon and Skype are planning a joint press conference for March 23, in which the companies will unveil Skype mobile on Verizon BlackBerry and Google Android devices.
Devices will be front-and-center at the show. Microsoft already debuted its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series smartphone platform during a press conference at Mobile World Congress on Feb. 15, but CTIA will provide yet another opportunity for media and analysts to explore the user interface, which forgoes the "screen of mobile apps" model of Google Android and the iPhone in favor of "hubs" that aggregate Web content and mobile applications.
In addition to smartphones, consumer tablet PCs are also scheduled to make an appearance. Nvidia plans to demonstrate tablet PCs that run its Tegra processor, and which feature 1080p HD video and Adobe Flash Player 10.1 support.
For companies such as Palm, CTIA will present the chance to regain at least a little mojo from past marketplace beatings. That company will host a booth at the show, and AT&T is expected to announce that it will follow Verizon in offering Palm phones onto the marketplace. Such a development may help Palm cling to life in the wake of a dismal quarter; company executives informed analysts and media on March 18 that its fourth-quarter revenue would total $150 million, less than half of what had been previously predicted. While initially praised by critics for their design, the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi have had difficulty gaining market traction.
Keynote speakers on March 23 will include J.K. Shin, president of Samsung's Mobile Communications Business, and Randall Stephenson, AT&T's CEO and president. The following day, keynote speakers will include Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG, and Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco. On March 25, a panel discussion about mobile technology's effect on business, media and the economy will include James Cameron, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, CNBC report Michelle Caruso-Cabera, and U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra.