INSIDE MOBILE: Wireless Innovators and Reflections on CTIA

By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-10-15

INSIDE MOBILE: Wireless Innovators and Reflections on CTIA

CTIA is the trade and lobby organization that represents wireless operators, handset manufacturers and the rest of the wireless industry in Washington. In order to pay for their lobbying efforts, CTIA produces two trade shows a year: a large mega show in the spring and a smaller show focused on enterprise and entertainment in the fall. Last week, I was in San Francisco to attend the CTIA Enterprise & Applications 2010 show at the Moscone Center West.

Due to the tough economy, this show was much smaller than in previous years. It seems to me that Steve Largent, CTIA's President and CEO (and former NFL star), should combine the two shows into one and move it to be a little later in the spring. That way, it would become a good offset to the GSMA Mobile World Congress conference held in Barcelona each February.

My vendor briefing meetings at CTIA

Most of my time at the show was spent going from one vendor briefing meeting to another. I never once set foot in the exhibition area. I had a number of really good briefing meetings with some exciting companies. To me, this is the only real value that directly comes out of attending CTIA.

1. DIDMO/GetJar: I met with Angelo Biasi, Vice President of Business Development. DIDMO is another application generator. They announced a distribution partnership with GetJar that provides an online store for mobile applications. This gives DIDMO developers an additional distribution channel.

2. HeyWire: One of the problems with sending texts internationally is the cost. While you may be on an unlimited text plan in the United States, it will cost you anywhere between 25 cents and $1.00 to send and receive a text from someone outside the United States. HeyWire solves that by sending the text over the Internet to others who have a HeyWire account. Thus, if you often send texts to someone in Europe, you could both get a HeyWire account and then text to each other for free. HeyWire makes money via advertising. HeyWire also allows users to interact via social messaging, chat and IM. Thus, in this instance, HeyWire becomes a "control tower" for messaging between mobile users and their social networking appearances.

More Vendor Briefing Meetings at CTIA

More vendor briefing meetings at CTIA

3. Intel: My meeting with Intel was under nondisclosure agreement (NDA). While I can't relate what was discussed, you can be assured that Intel plans to become a major player in the smartphone market.

4. Lookout: I met with John Hering, co-founder and CEO, and Alicia diVittorio, Marketing Director. They explained that Lookout Mobile Security solves four classes of mobile security problems: 1) antivirus, 2) backup, 3) missing device and 4) device management. They do not address on-device data encryption. I like their poetic statement for managing a missing device: "Locate (via GPS and mapping), Scream (loud signal) and Nuke (remote kill)." This is a well-funded startup that is doing quite well. John is an outstanding young CEO and reminds me of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.

5. Nokia: The Nokia analyst team held a meeting to give an update on developments with their product line (simpler) and with their services portal Ovi. Nokia Research Center folks highlighted futuristic product demos, including a way for the camera to sense hand gestures. Nokia is focusing on four key new Symbian^3 products: N8 for high-end entertainment, C7 for style, E7 for business users and C6, a compact, full-touch solution designed for friends and family. They still need to figure out how to succeed in North America (see my Open Letter to Stephen Elop, Nokia's New CEO: How to Make Nokia Great Again.

6. PocketGear: I met with Dov Cohn, Vice President of Products and Marketing. The company just landed $15 million in new financing. They are building out their application store platform that can provide applications to many different device and operating system platforms.

7. Smash Technologies: I met with Eric Boduch, CEO. They have created SmashCode, a mobile commerce platform that uses Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging for all the interactions, including banking.

8. Sprint: Mobile platforms such as Apple's iOS provide the same interface and experience to all users. Android allows for more customization to the operating system itself and to interfaces that sit on top of the operating system. Some handset firms are already adding specific, special environments to their Android devices (such as Motorola with Motoblur and HTC with Sense).

Now Sprint has taken this approach one big step further with the introduction of Sprint ID, which allows software developers to create entire user experiences from desktop background displays, specific applications, custom ring tones, etc. The user gets a more custom experience for the dedicated intention (for example, an enterprise could use Sprint ID to create a custom experience for their employees). This is a very good extension to the Android platform. We'll likely see more efforts such as this in the future. Kudos to Sprint and a number of partners for creating a more custom user experience for defined communities of users.

ShowStoppers for the Mobile Holidays Event

ShowStoppers for the Mobile Holidays event

On Tuesday evening, October 5th, I attended ShowStoppers for the Mobile Holidays, an event run by my good friends Steve, Dave and Bob Leon. They had a number of good companies attending to meet with invited press and analysts. Here's a quick summary of those I met:

1. AdelaVoiceStartTalking allows you to send text messages and listen to incoming text messages as they arrive, reply to messages, post to Twitter and Facebook, etc.

2. aisle411: There's always one meeting that you have that turns out, unexpectedly, to be a real surprise. aisle411 solves the constant problem we all have when visiting large retail stores such as Home Depot and grocery stores: How do you find things? aisle411 is generating databases of item locations in stores, plus gaining input from users, to make finding items easier. Clearly, they can then offer coupons as a way to make money. I especially liked their grocery list that then turns into a routing map of the store.

3. Damaka: I met with Ramesh Chaturvedi, Chief Strategy Officer. These folks have a cool technology solution that allows three to four people to share a voice conference call. The bandwidth management is certainly challenging but they have a good solution. Video conferencing is not widely accepted, but is gaining interest due to FaceTime being introduced on the iPhone 4. Some people are rather frightened about showing their image while talking. This application is focused on the enterprise and could help migrate expensive desktop video solutions to mobile.

4. DeviceAnywhere: I met with Leila Modarres, Vice President of Marketing. The company has racks of mobile phones and connectivity that allows enterprise and consumer developers to remotely test their applications on a number of different phones.

5. F-Secure: You're seeing more attention to security in mobile due to the migration of phones to being small computer systems. F-Secure showed off Mobile Security 6, their security software.

More from ShowStoppers

More from ShowStoppers

6. NAVTEQ: I really liked their new Natural Guidance system. You had to wonder what navigation firms would do to counter free, turn-by-turn navigation provided by Google. Natural Guidance is a good answer; it adds a layer of intelligence on the navigation process, using local landmarks to make it easier to understand what you need to do as a driver.

7. Novatel Wireless: I talked with Charlotte Rubin, Senior Director of Public Relations. Novatel showed their latest rendition of their popular MiFi unit that now supports High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and includes a microSD slot to allow side-loading of information (for example, photos) so they can be shared with all on the MiFi unit. The company has also launched their software platform to extend local networking among users connected to the MiFi unit.

8. SEVEN Networks: SEVEN Networks' latest version of its mobile applications for Android extends all major e-mail and instant messaging services to Android 2.2 devices. SEVEN is clearly extending the original focus on wireless e-mail into social networking messaging with this announcement so that you can conduct, for example, a Facebook messaging sequence completely from your Android smartphone.

9. Millennial Media: I met with Erin (Mack) McKelvey, Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Kathleen Morris. Millennial Media is one of the major mobile ad networks (similar to AdMob). They hold spaces on mobile versions of many Websites and sell those ad slots to companies for various promotions.

The Wireless Innovators Dinner

The Wireless Innovators dinner

Wednesday night, October 6th, was the highlight of the trip to San Francisco. I produced the third annual Wireless Innovators dinner for leaders in the wireless industry. The purpose is to bring together all the different sectors of the mobile and wireless industry so that interaction and networking could be conducted.

The dinner was sponsored by Headwaters MB, a mid-tier investment bank (Grant Garbers, Managing Director), and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (Glenn Richards, Partner). We had 65 sign up for the dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel, including handset makers, operators, VCs, investment bankers, software vendors, and press and analysts.

The dinner keynote was presented by Rob Tiffany, Mobility Architect at Microsoft, regarding the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system (just announced on Monday, October 11). Tiffany gave an excellent background on how Microsoft went about designing this new operating system and then presented a number of the major themes of the operating system. (Look for my review of Phone 7 in my column next week). We had a number of technology demonstrations and presentations that demonstrated some exciting new mobile and wireless technologies:

1. Vivotech: Mohammad Khan, founder and President, described how retail point of sale (POS) terminals (that we all use with credit and debit cards) will soon migrate to wireless sensors that can read a chip attached to or embedded in our phone. This will allow for a true "mWallet."

2. Nuance Communications: Voice processing is now gaining acceptance in mobile. Nuance had previously demonstrated the ability to compose text messages from speech. Aaron Masih, Director of Global Business Development, Mobility, demonstrated their new voice command and control and e-mail composition system that assists mobile users to use voice for most of the mobile phone activities while driving.

3. Rhomobile: Adam Blum, CEO, demonstrated the Rhodes platform that assists commercial and consumer developers in building mobile applications.

More from Wireless Innovators Dinner

More from Wireless Innovators dinner

4. Antenna Software: Jim Somers, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, did one of the best presentations of the evening by showing how important mobile applications have become for the enterprise, with support of both internal (employee-facing) and external (customer-facing) requirements.

5. mPura: Selvan Rajan, founder and CTO, demonstrated the mPura secure social gaming platform, with an example of being able to purchase a lottery ticket online. The user must be verified and can only purchase the lottery ticket if within the state the ticket is sold. It is a tough problem to solve but they are almost finished with the development.

That's the recap of the CTIA Enterprise & Applications 2010 show, the ShowStoppers for the Mobile Holidays event, and the Wireless Innovators dinner. I now return to my traditional role of an industry analyst. If you have a challenging problem about which you could use some outside assistance, contact me so we can see if I can be of help to you.

The Wireless Technology Forum

P.S. I am a member of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. They recently announced their annual Wireless Applications and Mobile Media (WAMM) Awards on Thursday, October 7th at the AT&T Mobility Conference Center in Atlanta. Click here for the list of all the winners.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. 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, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at

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.

Rocket Fuel