I spent much of last week at the CTIA Wireless convention in Orlando. This was the first time I had been to this particular conference, which is mostly oriented toward the cellphone business. Other than being stuck in a hotel filled with teenagers on spring break, it was rather enjoyable.
The most significant theme was the convergence of mobile communications and the cloud. These trends are moving very fast individually and the synergy between them is accelerating them both. We will soon be accustomed to very large-scale capabilities which we will be carrying around in our pockets or purses.
Tablets, Tablets, Tablets
The exhibit floor seemed to me to be all about tablets, trinkets, and technology.
Every vendor was showing off their iPad catch-up device. I really felt sorry for them. They were all crying for attention with quasi-unique features, and the market seems to react with a yawn. If the feature is useful, the next iPad will have it next year anyway. (Apple is so strong that they did not even bother to show up.)
There were a huge number of little trinkets – phone accessories of every imaginable use, color, and shape. If you wanted a hot-pink cover for your iPhone, there were at least fifteen vendors anxious to sell you one. I am glad I am not in that business!
The heavy technology made for an odd contrast to the trinkets: all sorts of electronics, antennas, cabling systems, etc., needed to install and maintain all those cellphone networks.
Here are some notes and impressions:
- It was not until the third day of the conference that I heard someone mention voice communications. It was all data, data, data.
- Great question: Is there any expectation of privacy in the cloud?
- An interesting distinction: tablets as “couch companions” (used while sitting down), versus phones being “in your pocket” at all times. Also, phones are inherently personal, whereas tablets are more likely to be shared.
- Who should pay for the increasing costs of providing network capacity for just one company? Historically, consumers have paid for their bandwidth at a flat, monthly rate. Should some form of metered pricing become the norm? Or should the content providers pay?
- Whither Microsoft? They had to bribe Nokia to stay alive in the smartphone market and they do not even have an entry for tablets. No wonder their booth looked so lonely!
- Google knows more about you than your spouse does.
Technology Shaping Our World
The theme of the last day’s keynote address was new technologies being used to “shape our world.” The speakers included the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch and Biz Stone, from Twitter.
- Human Rights Watch uses wireless technology to keep in contact with their researchers in war zones, etc. They never lost contact with their people on the ground during the Egyptian revolution, despite Egyptian government efforts to block communications.
- If today’s wireless and web technology were available then, the Khmer Rouge would not have been able to murder a third of the people of Cambodia.
- Twitter’s many-to-many communication network makes it particularly good for public emergencies. In the recent Japan disaster, Twitter got word out first, SMS second (one-to-one), and phones (voice) third.
I found these trends rather inspiring, and certainly very well-timed, with the current revolutionary spirit rising in the world, as well as in light of the recent disasters in Japan. What tech trends do you envision “shaping our world” next? And if you were at CTIA, what were your impressions?