SAN FRANCISCO—The tension between enterprise and consumer segments of the wireless market was evident at Mondays keynote addresses here at the CTIA Wireless conference and expo.
While executives touted the productivity gains from wireless integration and mobility, most demonstrated streaming video but stressed that applications of such technology should benefit both consumer and business users.
Meanwhile, as vendors introduced the latest in handsets and data-savvy phones, Intel Corp. announced another deal for the WiMax standard, a wireless alternative to wired broadband technologies.
Telling the audience that enterprises need to empower all of their employees with mobility solutions, not just the road warriors, PalmOne Inc. president Ed Colligan introduced the companys latest smart phone, the Treo 650. The $499 model doubles the processor performance and resolution of its color screen over the previous Treo 600 model.
While pointing out the rich-media capabilities of the Treo 650, such as an integrated MP3 player and video-playback capabilities, Palm executives also demonstrated a range of productivity applications for businesses, including the companys new multiprotocol VersaMail 3.0 and a search utility.
Also shown was a forthcoming mobile device management software package from Avocent Corp., which recently acquired Calgary, Alberta-based Sonic Mobility, a maker of remote IT administration software for handhelds.
Called Sonicmobility 5, the software will let IT managers track a range of parameters of mobile devices, including uptime and usage. In a demonstration of the packages security capabilities, the software sent a command to a Treo 650 that wiped e-mail and SMS messages from the device.
Colligan also stressed the importance of a robust Web browser in smart phones. “How often do you use Google?” he asked the audience. To be useful to a wider audience of customers, these devices have “to be able to go anywhere [on the Internet].”
According to Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Communications Group, smart phones next year will gain the equivalent processing power and memory performance of a circa-1995 desktop machine. He demonstrated a video on a current handheld and said the company expects to add video acceleration to its handheld processor lines in the next few years.
Maloney was joined by Craig McCaw, chairman of Clearwire Corp., a broadband services provider based in Kirkland, Wash. Intel will fund the company, which will develop and deploy WiMax-based networking.
The Clearwire exec described the companys mission of extending broadband services to areas underserved by current cable or DSL providers. He showed a video on the companys rollout of service to the Jacksonville, Fla., area.
“WiMax will be a complement to Wi-Fi,” McCaw said. “Wi-Fi offers an extraordinary experience in a controlled environment. We see an opportunity [with WiMax] to server a broader audience.”
Intel is the chief promoter of WiMax and recently shipped its first silicon, code-named Rosedale, to device makers this summer. At the fall Intel Developers Forum here, the company said it will integrate the high-speed wireless technology into notebooks in 2006 and into handsets the following year.
Intel laid out more of its WiMax roadmap Monday, disclosing that the company has sampled its first “Rosedale” silicon to customers and tipping plans to add the technology to handsets in 2007.
“Were big believers in the IEEE process, especially for building open networks,” Maloney said. The WiMax technology is overseen by the IEEE 802.16 working group.
“The Clearwire-Intel deal is something to watch,” said Francie Miller, of Emerald Hills, Calif.-based Miller Consulting, and a board member of the Wireless Communications Alliance. “Intel will push WiMax as a global standard. Its good, fast and clean.”
In a third keynote address, Microsoft officials offered a view on the companys mobile enterprise vision, centered around its Live Communications Server and Exchange Server products, .Net tools and Office productivity platform. The challenge now is for IT managers to be able to “remotely load, back up and restore data on a mobile device.”
Scott Gode, strategic global director of Microsofts mobile and embedded devices division, pointed to new devices running the “Windows Mobile ecosystem,” as well as a new software add-on for Pocket Outlook from Verizon Communications Corp., called ePIM (Enhanced Personal Information Management).
For customers running Pocket Outlook and Exchange Server 2003, ePIM offers global address list lookup, meeting scheduling, views on schedules for other contacts and summaries of scheduled meetings.
The convergence of wireless performance and video was on the minds of show attendees. For example, Paul Sidlo, principal of Rezn8, a Hollywood, Calif., developer of GUIs for handheld devices and games platforms, was on the lookout for both technology trends and partnership opportunities.
Demonstrating video and navigation on a Windows Portable Media Center device, he said vendors have considered hardware and performance as differentiators. But as screen resolution, video performance and wireless bandwidth increase, vendors will see the value of improved interfaces to hold customers.
“When everyone has a system, what will differentiate [a product] is the experience of the customer,” Sidlo said. “At the end of the day, efficient companies will manage their relationships with customers better.”
Meanwhile, consultant Miller pointed to an offhand comment on the wireless market made by Clearwires McCaw in his keynote. He noted that the combination of AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless LLC is still only half the size of the smallest wireless company in China.
“That puts everything in perspective [for developers],” she said. “China is where the growth will be found for every wireless company. When WiMax goes global—if China accepts WiMax frequencies—then life will be good.”