INSIDE MOBILE: Fall CTIA: Motorola Back, Microsoft Treading Water

 
 
By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2009-10-20
 
 
 

INSIDE MOBILE: Fall CTIA: Motorola Back, Microsoft Treading Water


The CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment trade show was originally designed to focus on data, while the annual CTIA Wireless conference focused on voice. They have tried for many years to have the CTIA fall event cater to two groups at the same time-enterprise and consumers-since most wireless data vendors have products designed for either one or both of these markets. But the times have changed. Now, most people just think of CTIA as having two trade shows a year: spring in Las Vegas and fall, typically in San Francisco. They should just call them CTIA Spring and CTIA Fall, respectively.

It was clear last fall in San Francisco that the economy was hurting, with "down attendance" at the show. The decrease in attendees continued at this event a couple of weeks ago, with the conference taking up only one third of the convention center-and half of the space that was taken was set aside for the (more valuable) meeting rooms. You always think of a trade show as having lots of flashy booths. The meeting room areas were better for meetings: they were quiet and had a table and chairs.

The major things that impressed me at this CTIA event were:

1. Motorola is clearly back in the mobile game with the introduction of the CLIQ Android smartphone and their software called MOTOBLUR.

2. Microsoft is "treading water" with a Windows Mobile 6.5 that should satisfy the enterprise.

3. A number of speech-to-text companies are demonstrating that speech recognition for mobility is clearly now set to go mainstream.

As always, there were a few meetings that I found interesting as well. Here's the story:

Motorola: back in the game

It wasn't that long ago (2005 and 2006) that Motorola was the darling of the cellular industry. "Candybar" phones from Nokia were thick and heavy. Then, out of nowhere, Motorola developed the ultrathin RAZR feature phone and everyone just had to be seen using one. What a difference a few years makes. By mid-2007, the iPhone, plus a plethora of other popular smartphones, pushed the RAZR into oblivion. With no clear follow-on strategy (other than to introduce more variants of RAZR and a few Windows Mobile devices), Motorola looked like it was an "also ran."

There are some really good people who work at Motorola. They have as much experience developing phones as anyone, so you'd expect them to come back and offer something that would be on par-or perhaps better-than the iPhone and the rest of the smartphone manufacturers. Motorola recently announced the CLIQ, a smartphone based on the Google Android operating system. While the phone is nice, it's clearly the MOTOBLUR software that puts CLIQ back into the running for leadership in the phone market.

Motorolas MOTOBLUR Software


Motorola's MOTOBLUR software

MOTOBLUR provides consumers with an integrated social network experience. It's not just the ability to post something to Facebook or Twitter. Rather, it's built on providing users with an integrated experience around their social life. You can compose a message, and the system will automatically post it to all of your social network identities. If a message is received by your social networks, it comes in as message to the phone.

MOTOBLUR takes care of all the logins and message management. The consumer focuses on reading, composing messages and creating images of what's important to them. The CLIQ is the first of an entire family of phones that will be produced around the world-all based on Android with MOTOBLUR.

The CLIQ has a 5MP autofocus camera, Wi-Fi, and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) on AT&T. It also has a slide-out keyboard presented in landscape mode for easy text creation. And, with MOTOBLUR, all of the user's data is synced with the cloud and backed up.

The initial focus of MOTOBLUR is the consumer market and, in particular, young folks under the age of 30. But there's no reason that Motorola couldn't take MOTOBLUR and develop a version for the enterprise.

Microsoft: treading water

Microsoft announced Windows Mobile 6.5 at the CTIA show. The company also announced a number of devices, including the Pure from HTC. Microsoft has continued to enhance Windows Mobile software, trying to make the user experience more natural and intuitive. It's getting better, but it still lacks the overall appeal that the iPhone and Android platforms provide.

Windows Mobile 6.5 includes a new slide to unlock (similar to the iPhone), a display expand-or-contract slide bar, Outlook Mobile and Internet Explorer Mobile. These are all improvements, but we expect that it won't be until Version 7 that we'll see Microsoft offering something on par with the other smartphone operating environments such as Apple.

MyPhone, Windows Mobile Marketplace


MyPhone, Windows Mobile Marketplace

Microsoft also made two other announcements at CTIA: MyPhone and Windows Mobile Marketplace. MyPhone is a synchronization product similar to Apple's MobileMe-except that it's free. It synchronizes the user's personal information (contacts, calendar and e-mail) across their PCs, the Web and to Windows Mobile phones. It does not work with other mobile platforms. Windows Mobile Marketplace is Microsoft's version of an App Store. In Windows Mobile Marketplace, developers can have the billing managed by the wireless operator or billed direct (with a 70-30 split on revenue).

Microsoft is pegging their future on a Windows Mobile 7.0 launch that is likely a year or more away. This interim release provides some major enhancements to the user experience. You can see that the Start menu continues to move further down the user interface, which is the right thing to do as a Windows desktop metaphor is not appropriate for the mainstream mobile user.

It appears to me that Microsoft is simply treading water with this release-staying afloat while they prepare for Windows Mobile 7.0.

Speech-to-text

It seems that we've been hearing for a long time about how speech would become a normal part of using a cell phone. Voice dialing became popular by Voice Signal (now part of Nuance), but using speech much beyond dialing a number or selecting a menu option seemed far away and unreachable. I met with Vlingo, Yap and TravellingWave at CTIA (and recently talked with Nuance). Every one of these firms has developed speech recognition technology that allows users to dictate their SMS messages as well as search requests.

Vlingo has the sexiest demo: you just say what you want and the message appeared to be translated correctly each time. They are doing what's called "speaker dependent" so they listen, learn and get better for each user over time. Yap is doing "speaker independent" in which the processing is done on the server and uses clues from the situation. We'll see more people finally using speech to do things with their mobile, especially to eliminate texting while driving (which is likely going to be banned in every state and by the federal government).

Novatel and Other Notable Vendors


Novatel and other notable vendors

One of my most enjoyable meetings at CTIA was with Rod Hadley, CMO at Novatel Wireless, in which we discussed the future of MiFi (there are tons of possibilities). There were seven other meetings I had at CTIA which I found interesting. Here's the list of the vendors and their offerings:

1. SMobile and f2Mobile: Parental controls for messaging

2. AdMarvel: Integrated solution to help brands and publishers manage mobile marketing campaigns (they manage across multiple mobile ad networks)

3. Appitize: Mobile app generator for the iPhone

4. FunMail: Integrates visual messages into SMS

5. Zavers and Cellfire: Mobile coupon management

6. Obopay: Person-to-person transfer of funds

7. Novarra: Distribution of mobile content

Going to these trade shows is very demanding, with meetings from morning until late evening. But I get to see so many things that it's also very rewarding. And it takes me a week or two to digest everything that I saw and complete the necessary follow-up after the show. But, in the end, it's worth it.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., is the VP and Chief Analyst with the Frost & Sullivan North American Information & Communication Technologies Practice. As a nationally recognized industry authority, he focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Since joining Frost & Sullivan in 2006, Dr. Purdy has been specializing in mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld.

He is author of Inside Mobile & Wireless, which provides industry insights and reaches over 100,000 readers per month. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, and developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, his ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile & wireless industry. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. He can be reached at gerry.purdy@frost.com.

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.

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