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Always On Real-Time Access » 2006 » September
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Indian Economy Growth September 29, 2006

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According to NYT, The Indian economy grew at an unexpectedly torrid 8.9 percent annual pace in the second quarter of 2006, propelled by a sharp turnaround in its once-listless manufacturing sector, the government reported today.

India is now growing faster than most other economies in the world, and is close to rivaling China, whose emergence as a manufacturing center has left India racing to catch up.

It is also having an impact on the wireless industry. As noted in our research reports and research notes, India is close to overtaking China in terms of subscriber growth. Last month they added almost 6M subs. That is almost equal to what the top 4 US operators (which make up over 80% of the subscriber base) added in the three months (Q206). And rural growth hasn’t really kicked-in yet.

BenQ Mobile calls it quits

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Mobile handset business is brutal. Another casualty - Taiwan’s BenQ said it plans to shut down Siemens‘ German mobile phone business, which it now owns. The company also said it would stop investing in BenQ Mobile. Looks like the “The Law of Three” is applying in this segment. Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung might end-up being dominant global forces with LG and Sony Ericsson rounding up the next two spots.

More MVNO news

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While Mobile ESPN is winding down, Red Pocket Mobile has launched the first Chinese-language mobile phone service in the U.S. The service offers Motorola’s MOTORAZR V3 and inexpensive calls to China, among other things. As you know, Helio has been targeting Korean-American population, Movida targets Latin, some Indian focused MVNO is also in the works. Our Industry is never dull.

MobileESPN we hardly knew you .. September 28, 2006

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The content licensing and applications business will stay healthy

End of Mobile ESPN?

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Moconews is breaking the story about end of Mobile ESPN. Not Surprising but an Interesting chapter in the history and evolution of MVNOs. Several lessons to be learned.

We have heard from numerous sources that MobileESPN, the ambitious yet doomed MVNO effort from Disney, is in for a big change this week: either a phased winding down/transition, or getting sold, right before the end of Disney’s fiscal year

Mobile Advertising Bubble September 27, 2006

Posted by chetan in : Middleware, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Entertainment, US Wireless Market , 2 comments

There will be a lot of companies that will be funded in this space as it is new and hot. Lot is unknown, people are just trying to figure things out. Couple of new announcements from Boris Fridman - Crisp Wireless’s CEO

The first announcement is our partnership with WPP-owned interactive agency VML to develop mobile promotions and advertising solutions for major brands.  This is one of the first official alliances between a major agency and a mobile content delivery firm.  Already, Crisp Wireless and VML have collaborated on the Burger King WAP site, part of the fast food giant’s growing mobile presence. 

http://www.crispwireless.com/news?content_id=932

The second announcement, with Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), is yet another high-profile validation of Crisp’s mLogic platform in the publishing industry. WPNI has launched three new ad-supported mobile Internet sites–washingtonpost.com, Newsweek.com and Slate—built with and managed by mLogic Media, and ads served by mLogic AdServer.

http://www.crispwireless.com/news?content_id=933

In other news Visto is raising another round of money - $51m to be precise.

The ridiculous .mobi land-grab is on September 26, 2006

Posted by chetan in : General , 1 comment so far

more coverage here

IBM to put patent filings online

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In a significant move, I.B.M., the nation’s largest patent holder, will publish its patent filings on the Web for public review as part of a new policy that the company hopes will be a model for others. The policy, being announced today, includes standards like clearly identifying the corporate ownership of patents, to avoid filings that cloak authorship under the name of an individual or dummy company. It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable.

“Competitors will know years ahead in some cases what fields we’re working on,” said John Kelly, senior vice president for technology and intellectual property at I.B.M. “We’ve decided we’ll take that risk and seek our competitive advantage elsewhere.”

How will Microsoft and Google react?

Worth reading - The evolution of IP

T-Mobile’s UMA launch

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According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the carrier will unveil the phones early next month. The success of the service will depend on the kind of walled garden they sew up for their customers.

KTF’s truth detector

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You have to hand it to the Japanese and Korean operators for being creative and inventive and for trying out new things that keeps the customers engaged.

KTF is launching a voice analysis service on its network which claims to be able to identify if the caller is lying. The new ‘Truthful Calls’ service by KTF is based on Nemesysco’s innovative voice analysis system and acts as an emotion detector, assessing the level of honesty of the person phoned.

Western operators could learn a thing or two …

Carnival of the Mobilists #46 September 25, 2006

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is being hosted at The Mobile Gadgeteer by fellow Washingtonian Matthew Miller.

I wish I had the opportunity to travel to all the mobile trade shows, but since I can’t then I like to read all the details I can find on the internet and Chetan Sharma did an excellent job of providing a CTIA 2006 roundup.

Thanks Matthew.

There are some other interesting posts from the week

Enjoy

Future of Internet by PEW

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PEW Internet & American Life Project released its “The Future of the Internet” report. Summary conclusions are:

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
  • Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
  • People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
  • English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.
  • Earthcomber’s patent September 24, 2006

    Posted by chetan in : Mobile Applications, Mobile Search, Mobile Usability, Smart Phones , 1 comment so far

    Interesting patent - System and method for locating and notifying a user of a person, place or thing having attributes matching the user’s stated preferences

    A location-based and preference-based system and method for matching the profiles of the attributes and/or characteristics of persons, places and/or things with the expressed preferences of mobile users such as travelers, to alert and direct such users to any places having attributes matching the user’s express preferences. In particular, the system comprises a mobile device such as a GPS-capable PDA that stores the user’s preferences and communicates with a server that contains or accesses the profiles of the persons, places or things to compare the profiles and preferences. Comparison of the user’s preferences with the various profiles allows the user only to be informed of those persons, places and/or things that it is likely to be interested in. The system and method thus provides for a mobile real-time point of interest exchange network.

    IBM and Telenor invent PASTA September 22, 2006

    Posted by chetan in : AORTA, Carriers, Enterprise Mobility, Middleware, Partnership, Strategy , add a comment

    It is great to see some progress in this space. I have been talking about such a system for some time.

    IBM and Telenor have developed new mobile communications technology for global business users that will allow mobile devices and networks to automatically learn about their users’ whereabouts and preferences as they commute, work and travel.

    Code-named PASTA for “Presence Advanced Services for Telco Applications” and developed by the two companies as part of a joint research initiative, the technology provides infrastructure for deploying next-generation mobile presence services. “Presence” technology – used in applications such as instant messaging – makes it possible to locate and identify a computing or communications device wherever it might be, as soon as the user connects to the network. Privacy issues are addressed by allowing users to control when they are available.

    “The PASTA infrastructure has the ability to “learn” about users’ preferences. As the network becomes “smart” about its users’ preferences, we believe we can reduce outgoing network load by up to 70 percent,” said Vova Soroka, IBM’s lead researcher on the project. “That is a huge benefit to a network operator, but PASTA can also be used to create new end-user applications – to enable new services in medicine, tourism, financial services, logistics and home care industries among others. Any business with a large mobile workforce will find potential uses.”

    I am sure it won’t be perfect but definitely a step in the right direction.

    Adobe and VoIP

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    Om breaks the story on Adobe’s foray into the VoIP world.

    Nokia and Microsoft collaborate on Mobile Search September 21, 2006

    Posted by chetan in : AORTA, Carriers, Microsoft Mobile, Middleware, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Applications, Mobile Content, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Search, Mobile Usability, Partnership, US Wireless Market , add a comment

    Nokia (NYSE: NOK) today announced that it has reached an agreement with Microsoft to integrate Live Search capabilities into its Mobile Search platform, thus enabling consumers access to Live Search directly from their Nokia Nseries multimedia computers and other compatible Nokia S60 devices. Live Search will provide advanced web search results in 14 languages to enable on-the-go access to the information and content consumers want most.

    Microsoft will provide advanced search results for web search, as well as quick and easy access to information such as stock quotes, movie times, and common facts via Encarta Instant Answers*. The Mobile Search experience from Nokia allows users to find search results more quickly than by using the browser and finding the web page of an internet search provider, since in many cases search will be accessible directly from the menu screen.

    “Adding the advanced searching capabilities of Microsoft’s Live Search to our Mobile Search platform provides our customers with unique and powerful new ways to search the internet on their multimedia computers and many other compatible Nokia mobile devices,” commented Ralph Eric Kunz, vice president, Multimedia Experiences.  “The Mobile Search platform is dedicated towards creating a user experience that is easy to access and optimally integrated into other functions of the device. “

     

    The Mobile Search application is expected to be available in select markets in the standard sales packs of the Nokia N80 Internet Edition, Nokia N73, Nokia N93, Nokia N70, Nokia N71, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6680, and Nokia 6681, it is also offered as a free download for select Nokia S60 devices from www.nokia.com/mobilesearch.  

    Mobile Ads

    Posted by chetan in : CTIA, General, Infrastructure, Middleware, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Applications, Mobile Content, Mobile Entertainment , add a comment

    There has been a significant debate over mobile ads. Mobile Advertising was the highlight of the three shows in LA. GigaOM discusses this in further detail with a good roundup of companies. Small to large companies are looking at this new medium. While there are a lot of things that can go wrong, if done right, it will be welcomed by consumers. I guess next question to ask is

    “What will make mobile ads work?”

    I will be dealing with these issues in my future white paper. If you have thoughts or would like to contribute, please let me know.

    Verizon and Cingular see continued data growth

    Posted by chetan in : General , add a comment

    It is no surprise to our readers but some more details here

    “Where does most of our growth come from in the future? Clearly it’s from the data side of the business,” Strigl told the Goldman Sachs conference.

    Symbol acq. by Motorola

    Posted by chetan in : General , add a comment

    Pretty good move to shore up enterprise base.

    MOT will use cash in the transaction (MOT has nearly $15B in cash on the balance sheet). The purchase price represents a 30% premium to SBL’s 50-day moving average of $11.49 and a 35% premium to the 200-day. MOT is guiding that the transaction will be accretive in year one, that the combined company will experience a $100M run rate in operating synergies by 2007 (to be found in the supply chain and operating efficiencies) and that there will be material but unspecified top line synergies. Deal is expected to close in late 2006 or early 2007.

    MOT management hosted a call this morning and justified the transaction with five main points:

    1) accretive transaction

    2) intellectual property – lots of technology that complements MOT (910 US and 680 International patents)

    3) great customer base – ability to combine efforts, cross-sell, penetrate the enterprise

    4) great people – engineering, innovation, management

    5) ties into seamless mobility

    CTIA, MES, MECCA Fall 2006 Roundup September 18, 2006

    Posted by chetan in : 3G, 4G, AORTA, ARPU, CTIA, Carriers, Devices, Enterprise Mobility, Federal, Gaming, General, Infrastructure, Intellectual Property, Location Based Services, M&A, MVNO, Mergers and Acquisitions, Microsoft Mobile, Middleware, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Applications, Mobile Content, Mobile Ecosystem, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Gaming, Mobile Search, Mobile TV, Mobile Usability, Networks, Partnership, Patents, Smart Phones, Speech Recognition, US Wireless Market, Wireless Value Chain, Worldwide Wireless Market , 2 comments

    Los Angeles was the venue for the annual CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2006. Pre-show events included Mobile Entertainment Summit (Chetan Sharma Consulting was a research partner) and MECCA. This note summarizes the observations and commentary from the above shows.

    First let’s do the numbers. Just before CTIA, M:Metrics released some numbers from their most recent survey. Amongst the western nations, US has just over 5% 3G penetration with UK leading the way at 11.4%. Spain and France are at 8.9% and 7.9% respectively. In the US, Verizon is ahead with over 17% 3G subscriber penetration followed by Sprint at 6%. CTIA also released their survey numbers. 12.5 billion messages in the month of June 2006, up 71% from 7.3 billion messages in June 2005. There was 70% growth in service data revenues. You probably already knew most of the above after reading our research notes here and here, weeks and months ahead of the mainstream media.

    MES and MECCA. The central theme from both the shows was community and advertising. The buzz shifted from “Mobile Search”, “Mobile TV”, and “IMS” during the last couple of shows to “Mobile Advertising”. The prospective lifecycle of product development goes like this – build community (whether it is around user generated content, games, artists, bands or other) and monetize the community by advertising. The permutation and combination of the business models are: free application and/or free content, subscription, earn credits for watching ads, more credits for feedback/surveys, etc. Companies who are able to build a large mobile community (at least 5-10M active users) and gather some specific demographic data become hot property of the moment. It is important to note that the mindset for an exit strategy for companies in the social media and user generated content space has changed a bit. Instead of getting acquired by software or computing companies like Google and Yahoo (yes, yes, they are media companies as well) to traditional Media companies like FOX and HBO. This was quite apparent in a number of discussions I had with the executives from new media content companies.

    Enterprise focus, Finally!. I have been involved in the mobile enterprise space since 1999 and have been coming to the CTIA for a number of years. The fall show is supposedly about dual personalities of Entertainment and Enterprise. For the first time it felt that the Enterprise side was given its due respect and was on an equal footing to its sibling personality - the glamorous, the attention-seeking “Entertainment”. CTIA started the conference with an Enterprise panel discussion (of course after the surprise Governator keynote). Though the discussion was too high-level to provide any key insights, CIOs confirmed what is well known now that the spending on wireless-data related projects is going up significantly. A surprise revelation was that China’s growth in enterprise solution is among the highest in the world. It is all about productivity and ROI. Companies are also looking to outsource their IT operations related to wireless devices. Handset guys are coming out with Enterprise targeted devices though we are still in the very early stage development of the cycle. Throwing an email client on the device doesn’t make it an enterprise device. Email client is a given in all new handsets now. When will we start seeing embedded enterprise apps? Mobile web services clients and frameworks?

    It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad world. Mobile advertising is clearly the buzz of the moment. Everyone wants to build an ad-supported model and also build their own ad network. Currently, most of the talk is around simple rotation of ads or tying ads to the category the user is interacting with. Not much attention on demographics, profiles, or context. That’s where the “big” impact and value will come into play. Currently, carriers sit on goldmine of user data that is begging to be leveraged for enhancing user experience. Unexpectedly, they sit on a big opportunity that will start to change the advertising industry over the course of the next 5 years. To see where things are going, we just need to look at trends in Japan and Korea. It was interesting that in almost all of the mobile advertising discussions, nobody talked about the elephant that was not in the room - Google, trendsetter in monetizing content. Also, missing were the agencies and their perspective. I have looked at this space quite a bit over the last two years and while agencies are excited about the prospect, they are not ready to jump yet. It will be quite entertaining to watch the new-generation media companies compete/collaborate with the carriers. For the next 3 years or so, carriers will still have an upper hand and if they execute it right, could dominate the space for a long time to come. People also talked about different types of ads – IVR, Voice, Interstitials, banner, in-game, before-and-after, etc. Of course, click-to-call or click-to-action are going to be an especially important ingredient of this game. Sprint Nextel and Enpocket announced their mobile advertising program. Amp’D also announced mobile advertising plans with Rhythm New Media. Bango launched its Ad initiative as well. Virgin mobile’s Ad program “Earn Airtime in Your Spare Time” is innovative. They are truly in tune with their subscribers.

    FMC. Kyocera had some trial handsets that supported WiFi/VoWiFi. One could theoretically make VoIP calls and download content over WiFi but will carriers allow it and how long will they resist. Non-traditional carriers like the MVNOs and the cable operators are very interested in exploring bundling offers. Sprint also announced EV-DO Rev A data cards that provide data rates up to 400-600kpbs. Cingular announced that they will have a majority of the top 100 markets deployed with UMTS/HSDPA by year-end. However, the choice of handsets is still missing and as such adoption for Cingular is behind schedule.

    4G. While, we are just starting with 3G (except Japan and Korea), seven of the wireless industry’s leading carriers have joined forces to “develop a common vision” for the future of mobile networks technology. Members of the Next Generation Mobile Networks initiative include China Mobile, KPN, NTT DoCoMo Inc., Orange, Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile and Vodafone. The group said it has created a set of requirements “for a future wide area mobile broadband network designed to offer enhanced customer benefits by delivering competitive broadband performance alongside high levels of interoperability.” In plainer terms, the NGMN appears to be devising a roadmap for interoperable 4G networks. You can sense the arm-wrestling to come. 4G could end up having some serious IPR issues if all major patent-holders don’t participate. The 3GPP licensing regime has been a failure, industry needs to be proactive, dedicate resources to the problem and get is solved to the extent it can.

    Telematics. The number of firms talking about telematics or navigation on the phone or devices for your car increased quite a bit. Navteq, TeleAtlas, TeleNav, Inrix, Pharos, Kore, Teydo, and many others displayed their wares. On the consumer side, navigation is getting embedded into Local search apps which are enhancing the user experience quite a bit. FindIt and Google Maps are two examples. There were enterprise focused solutions from Tierravision, LiveCargo and @Road.

    WiMax. Spent sometime with Lars Johnsson, VP at Beceem Communications talking about the prospect of WiMax worldwide. Clearly, Intel and Clearwire’s announcement has reenergized the industry and taken some uncertainty out. Lars is extremely knowledgeable person on everything WiMax. He co-founded Flarion which got sold to Qualcomm last year. It looks like the benefits of 802.16e will render 802.16d useless in short order. “e” provides better link capacity, Forward Error Correction, power efficiencies, and optimization. The cost of building a WiMax modem is lower than the WCDMA counterpart. A number of cable and wireline players are looking for triple-play offerings. Beceem has strong partnerships with OEMs worldwide and is actively involved in several trials in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, India, and US. The biggest challenges are around interoperability (as always) and quick resolution of IPR issues. From an application perspectives, gaming companies are the ones watching it closely. Also, automobile media player vendors are interested in using WiMax for Broadcast video. Tropos believes that Mesh technology will continue to have relevance in a WiMax-enabled world as the practical ranges of base stations won’t exceed 5-10miles.

    M&A. Some major M&A news at the show– Real acquiring WiderThan for $365M, Lucent acquiring Mobilitec for undisclosed amount, and FOX acquiring 51% stake in Jamba for $188M. This follows Sybase’s acquisition of Mobile365 last week for $400M. There are several factors at play. Clearly, some segments of the industry that have matured are facing price pressure and hence consolidation. Media companies are also realizing the potential and don’t want to miss out or get behind the curve so acquiring companies that have traction, not necessarily the best technology. Some of the valuations just don’t make sense but I guess some over-exuberance is to be expected at this time.

    Handset launches. You might have missed the announcement; there was no Steve Jobs, no iPhone release. Pearl was probably the highlight of the show though plans had been leaked in the media sometime back. RIM has Razresque aspirations from the device. The big three didn’t have anything interesting. Nokia launched E62 (thankfully, taking a cue from Motorola, they are getting rid of their number scheme), however it is missing 3G and WiFi support of its European cousin E61. Kyocera had some interesting devices as discussed above. Sprint launched two EV-DO Rev A data cards from Pantech and Sierra Wireless. Cingular announced a $150 HTC Smartphone. Linux handsets are also on the rise. Obigo/Teleca had some nice tools/products for mobile Linux – Browser, IM, Media and Email client. The user experience was quite nice.

    Mobile TV/video. At the last two shows, Mobile video and Mobile TV were all the rage. The solutions seem to have matured though uncertainty of its success remains (primarily around time-horizon to success). There are too many providers in the space offering solutions from individual codecs to end-to-end solutions, do-it-yourself toolkits (Nexage) to user-generated video solutions (ComVu, Juicecaster – ComVu’s one click mobile broadcast capability was pretty good) to niche demographics (Viva Vision is getting good traction in the Latino market). Various pieces of the mobile video puzzle have been commoditized, now, it is all about packaging. There were a number of Mediaflo handsets on display as well. The quality of Broadcast is really good. I saw some Broadcast TV services in Seoul earlier this year and the user experience is pretty good. My partner watched the entire South Korea soccer world cup game on his mobile device as he wasn’t near a TV. Once the market gets seeded with enough phones and service pricing settles to mass-market scale, we can expect good adoption rate for such services. Imagination Technologies out of UK showed some innovative SoC (System on Chip) solutions targeting Mobile Broadcast video. Some new names in the space are QuickPlay, Picsel (nice user experience), and Convisual. Expect some consolidation in this space over the next 12 months.

    The ecosystem friction. The mobile data ecosystem tension is bubbling up. Carriers want control (some more than others) so that they can manage user experience and minimize customer support calls. Content companies want to bypass the carrier and go direct to the consumer. This was also evident in the Walt Mossberg’s grilling of the carriers as well as other conversations with participants in the value chain. Things are improving but not at the pace everyone would like it to be. Clearly, ecosystem only proliferates if it is allowed to make money. If certain sections of the chain get strangled, holes start to develop which pollutes the system.

    User experience. Didn’t see much progress on the UX front. Saw a cool implementation from FAST for Optus in Australia where they used search technology to populate the Active Screen with user preferred content. Optus has been using this offering to entice users to 3G as it is not available on lower bandwidth network and is apparently having good success. Add context and some multimedia and it becomes very very compelling. It is one area that hasn’t been exploited that much yet. In the US Cingular’s MediaNet implementation uses the same concept but is more browser-based. In different sessions, carriers agonized over limited shelf space and mountain of content. That’s why man invented “mobile search”. The concept of “deck” is very limiting. Content needs to get exposed via search whether it is post-query or pre-populated dashboard based on context and preference.

    Test equipment – Whether it is entertainment or enterprise, very little attention is given to testing and monitoring data applications and services. Keynote launched a really useful product offering (Mobile Device Perspective) that enables developers to test their app from distance on a live network and live devices and control it through manual steps or automation. Currently, such testing is done by flying a team of testers, test, and optimize. This offering can reduce the cost of such operations. I took a look at their R&D and test setup and found it quite compelling. TestQuest also showed a product along the same lines though it is more of a platform play than a service offering.

    MVNOs. There is a realization that MVNO business is hard. The unrealistic expectations for customer growth are being recalibrated. It is still a viable business model but one has to give time and execute like a carrier. Virgin Mobile noted that it requires at least 2M subs before a nationwide MVNO (in the US) will cross the line from red to black.

    IMS. Talked to Lucent and NMS about their pre-IMS solutions. NMS was displaying a technology around P2P mobile video sharing while talking (though the tasks happened in time-slice mode). Lucent had a solution “extensions” which converged PBX and Mobility. An example would be you dial a 4 digit extension on your mobile phone that connects you to the other party as if you dialed it from your desktop phone. BUT, networks aren’t there yet and devices will arrive a bit later. In the interim, companies are looking to stimulate the simulated IMS experience.

    Funding news. Several funding news from the show, the one that caught my eye was $10m for Bubble Motion in VoiceSMS (funded by Sequoia Capital). It should be noted that there is prior art in this space and the likelihood that the company is infringing on somebody’s patents are high.

    Coolest gadget. MyVu’s media viewer

    Coolest booth. Infospace’s Tony Hawk show was probably the most exciting thing happening on the show floor. Watching the masters go swing-swong had the crowd go wild with ooohs and aaahs.

    Misc. News.

    Your comments are always welcome.