Tuesday, March 27, 2007

First day at CTIA

CTIA is in Orlando this year. Weather is nice, a bit on the humid side. The show is in one enormous hall. It reminds me of New Orleans a couple of years ago. You just keep walking and walking and walking... I am not sure about the attendance numbers but it seems slow to me. Inside the hall and outside (since the attendees are dispersed in the city). Orlando is not the best place to have a show like this one, in my opinion. Lots of people probably remained home.

Anyway, the tone is still upbeat. The buzz is around mobile advertising. I am not sure why we need a different buzz every show, but welcome to the mobile world ;-) Many believe mobile advertising could be the key to start delivering compelling data applications to phone, for cheap. It makes sense, until you realize you still have to pay for data (e.g. the carrier). Once and if the carriers become a dumb pipe, the model will make sense. For now, it does not. But it is interesting to play around with the concept and, if the data plans become a commodity, this could really be the right train to catch. We'll see, I am optimistic.

I saw a lot of cool devices, just launched today. Man, I should count the number of different devices on display at the show. It is unbelievable. Works for me and Funambol (and sustain my segmentation argument) but it is quasi schizophrenic... Anyway, the Samsung Upstage looks like the closest thing to the iPhone mini (the one I was expecting from Apple and never came). It is thin like an iPod mini. Unfortunately, one side looks great, the other side looks ugly... Apparently, you need Steve Jobs to make both sides nice.

The other device that competes in the iPhone mini category is the Sony Ericsson W580. Very nice device. Cool music phone. With everything you need, including sync and push email. Also, it sports a pedometer, that is very useful to check how many miles you walked down the aisles of CTIA... The more I look at Sony Ericsson phones, the more I am getting convinced they are on the right track. And they seem to be supporting open standards and SyncML on every single device. Which is quite smart.

Lastly, a new startup came to the spotlight. Mostly because it was launched by Microsoft and it looks like an attempt to answer the iPhone usability challenge (BTW, the iPhone was at the show in the hands of AT&T CEO and it disappeared three seconds after...). ZenZui will promote a new "Zooming User Interface" that is designed to streamline and enhance the mobile Web-surfing experience. It does not look like anything out of the ordinary, but as a usability guy I am always supportive of initiative targeted to enhance the user experience. We still have a long way to go on this, and it is THE key factor.

End of day one. Thankfully, the show runs only from 11 am to 5 pm... Just to recall the good days at 3GSM in Barcelona, I am going out and have some tapas. I have to admit it, Orlando does not cut it for me. I am looking forward to go back to Vegas next year (I am sure there is good Spanish food there as well ;-)