CTIA Enterprise and Applications 2010 Wrap-up

CTIA Enterprise and Applications 2010 Wrap-up

CTIA Enterprise and Applications 2010 Wrap-up


Déjà vu – the experience of thinking that the current CTIA had occurred before.

This note summarizes the observations and opinions from the event, discussions, and briefings from the CTIA event that just concluded in San Francisco.

The Mobile Ecosystem

For me, the proceedings started with my talk “Mobile Apps: The Big Picture.” I generally start my talks these days by explaining the complexity of the mobile ecosystem. The traditional value-chains are morphing (and some cases being decimated) and the new ones are getting coalesced very fast. It is hard to summarize without going into the intricacies and the dynamic nature of the game. (I will be expanding on this theme again during my talk at University of Oxford this friday)

It is like a long marathon composed of 100m sprints where new players can enter and leave midstream. Players can merge en route to gain strength and speed or blow up before reaching the next 100m. The friends in this segment of the race might turn into competitors in the next segment. To throw a wrinkle into the mix, regulators or any one player can change the rules of the game such that 100m can become 50m or 200m and the players have to adapt and respond accordingly.

The race is in the open so the weather elements can impact but doesn’t stop the race. In such a brutally competitive environment, only the players who are super-agile or super-innovative or both have enough juice left to compete effectively in the next leg of the marathon. The successful ones are those where the C-suite and the troops are watching the KPIs of each step at the granular level so they have real-time intelligence of taking the next stride.

It requires the perfect blend of Usain Bolt and Samuel Wanjiru to compete in the “new” mobile landscape.

For example, Samsung, HTC, and Motorola (recently) have adapted remarkably well to this fast-paced marathon but their friendly rival LG has suffered and will need some time to regroup and be a force again. Microsoft faltered and didn’t adapt while new entrants like Apple and Google set the terms of the race. Watch out for what Facebook does in the space. Given their scale, their user understanding, and their product portfolio, if they execute certain elements of their strategy right, Facebook can be front runner in this ecosystem.

Some of the operators who have traditionally felt safe on their home turf are getting challenged. They are reinvigorating the industry segments they could have dominated before though it is probably too late in some areas.

Mobile Enterprise – The unglamorous cousin of the consumer segment

Enterprise is hot again. AT&T and Sprint have become very focused on becoming the “total solution providers” vs. just providing data subscriptions and devices. A&T is making a big push for the enterprise market and showcased several of its wins in the healthcare, education, retail, shipping, and other verticals. As I have talked about before, (mobile platform will) let a thousand industries bloom! Cloud computing is another area where we are going to see some interesting developments over the course of next 6 months (I will be moderating a panel on Mobile Cloud Computing at the upcoming Open Mobile Summit in Nov)


At CTIA, Verizon formally announced their LTE plans with almost 40 markets. It has moved aggressively in the last 24 months to get the network and slew of devices ready. Verizon’s marketing machine will let loose come Christmas and CES. AT&T also announced its “LTE ready” devices.

Mobile Devices: Competitive landscape

iPhone is likely to be launched on a second US carrier in Jan and is going to offer first true iPhone vs. Android test. In the meantime, a stable of Windows Phone 7 launched today after the announcement 8 months back in Barcelona. I do like a fresh approach to UI design akin to flipboardification of the apps icon-based layout (which is so desktopish). Things started to move in this direction with Motorola Blur last year and INQ a bit earlier.

The question is not if Microsoft has done a good job with WP7. It has. The question is – how soon does Microsoft come with its second round of handsets and software upgrades? And how soon will it be able to sign up additional OEMs. Remember, a few extra hops doesn’t guarantee unfair competitive advantage for the next 100m. Microsoft is starting from 0 and will have to execute on all fronts to be considered a serious contender come 2011 Christmas season. Finally, there is always room for another player, another platform. These things go in cycles. The trick is to capitalize on your opportunity and not be the one left standing when the music stops.

Coming back to my talk, I do think that an analytics driven UI is where we will end up on the smartphone UI and the whole debate around “mobile web vs apps” will be rendered moot to some extent. I expect Apple will come out with its iteration of the next generation UI soon.

Connected Devices

Mobile as a platform is maturing and we can see this in the growth in connected devices and vertically focused solutions – healthcare, energy, education, etc. The fact that the connected devices have become the next battle ground was clear from the fact that Ford had a major presence at the show. Their telematics strategy is very well executed. In our own work in the space, there is some cool stuff that is going to get rolled out in the next 24 months. Secondly, Samsung was displaying its tablet as if it was the only device it built. Apple has created a new category and others are lining up to cash in.

Mobile Apps vs. Web

The noise around “mobile apps vs. web” is reaching a fervent pitch. It is rather a silly debate. Developer care about reach, revenue potential, and the cost of the reach. Users care about the best user experience and cheapest access. Ecosystems are built around these two simple notions. Recent data from Comscore revealed something interesting. Looking at the smartphone data between apps and browser, while overall, the apps usage was higher compared to that of the browser, browser was considered a better way to navigate in various categories like news, search, and social networking by a good margin. However, games which happens to be generating the lion share of the apps revenue will continue to be a native play for some time to come because developers don’t want to compromise and the browsers are not there yet.

Over all, great to catch-up with friends and colleagues. CTIA, thanks for the networking party. 2011 looks pretty darn interesting already (we will be discussing the trends and opportunities in 2011 in our upcoming Mobile Breakfast Series event on Dec 8th)

Some of the other news worthy items were:

  • Sprint launched Sprint ID that helps customize the clutter on the device. Again, the limitations of the icon based UI are becoming clearer.

  • Androids keep multiplying like gremlins. Motorola launched a series of Android devices,  some squarely focused on the enterprise.

  • CTIA released its semi-annual industry survey results: 293M subs, $79B in rev in first 6 months, data revs $25B up 12.4% in the first 6 months. Capital investment of $21.6B in last 12 months. SMS traffic in June 10 – 173B.

  • Some are realizing that a flatter network architecture is needed to manage data growth and margins. We have written extensively about this subject in our Yottabyte Series.

  • In a show devoid of cool demos, OpenMarket demoed interaction with the vending machine using a mobile device something Finns have been doing for a decade.

  • NFC was barely discussed but if all things line up, it could be one of the top stories of 2011.

  • More CTIA coverage at Wireless Week, Moconews, RCR Wireless, CNET, etc.

Your feedback is always welcome.


Chetan Sharma

We will be keeping a close eye on the trends in the wireless data sector in our blog, twitter feeds, future research reports, and articles. The next US Wireless Data Market update will be released in Nov 2010. The next Global Wireless Data Market update will be issued in Oct 2010.

Disclaimer: Some of the companies mentioned in this paper are our clients.