The bulk of our CTIA coverage this year has been over at our sister sites: Phone different, WMExperts, and CrackBerry.com. We'll start our TreoCentral coverage with a roundup of what's been happening over at those sites.
CTIA a bit of a downer for consumers
The iPhone story at CTIA is this: it's the elephant in the room. Virtually nobody (with one notable exception) seems willing to even acknowledge the iPhone's existence. That reticence drove Mike to post CTIA: Bleh. Kudos are due to Mike for posting that up from his iPhone directly.
The story gets a little more interesting, though, when you consider the fact that this CTIA conference is meant to have a focus on entertainment. Witness CTIA: Lipstick on a Pig, where Mike excellently views the state of the mobile industry at large through the lens that CTIA has provided us:
It seems like the point of this conference is to try to team up and see how their bricks can help build up the "walled garden." We were continually lambasted by criminally bad ads prior to Ballmer's keynote from groups that are scared brainless of the kind of regulation that might actually make consumers' mobile world not suck. The calls for regulation that crop up with increasing regularity are there for a reason -- the wireless world is broken right now, and I don't think the usual suspects know how to fix it.
...As regulars on internet forums might say, "+1, agreed."
Facebook Gets Mobile
Today's keynote was by Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, and it was a doozy. The biggest announcement of the talk, smartphone-wise, was clearly the native Facebook app for BlackBerries (more on that below).
For a non-BlackBerry user, however, the most exciting part was when Moskovitz unapologetically chided the entire CTIA audience for at least 20 minutes. Moskovitz spoke at length about the idea of Mobile openness and the concept of "platforms" in the mobile space:
The other great part is that Markovitz gave a warning to everyone attending: open up your platform or become obsolete, either by Apple's hand or Google's hand. Pick your poison, really. Both of them are looking to either destroy or warp the industry, and to do it from within.
Moskovitz also discussed how Smartphones and UMPCs are destined to become one and the same -- a point that's more than a little reminiscent of comments made previously by Treo guru Jeff Hawkins.
An iPhone user's take on Microsoft's Keynote
For an "entertainment" conference, there was precious little entertainment news to speak of from the Steve Ballmer's keynote. Quoth Mike:
Microsoft didn't really have anything to say about entertainment, which isn't surprising as their strategy in the entertainment world has historically been pretty ham-fisted. Beyond PC games, XBox, and Windows Media Center, they don't really have any successful media offerings. I'm looking at you, Zune. Oh, and you, Plays-For-Sure. Sorry, I could barely see you there.
The word you're looking for as you read that paragraph is "Zing!" Just imagine the image Mike captured at right is, in fact, Steve Ballmer looking at Mike's opinion of their entertainment offerings.
Still, though, Mike does recognize the importance of the non-entertainment announcements of the conference, namely Microsoft's new server-side device management sofware. More on that below as Mike rounds up WMExperts' posts, but here's the take of a dyed-in-the-wool iPhone user:
No, this isn't a shot across the iPhone's bow. It's a direct hit on Blackberry. I've said over and over in our Treocast podcasts that RIM plays a very dangerous game in the mobile space -- they compete directly with Microsoft, and their job just got a lot harder.
The sofware is indeed a direct shot at RIM and a clear indication that Microsoft plans on keeping the pressure on in the enterprise arena. Mike and I will be writing more about that in just a bit. Also notable in that article: Steve Ballmer seems physically incapable of forming two words: "Google" and "Apple."
Crackberry.com had initially reported that there was very little going on at CTIA, with the possible exception of this slightly embarrasing photo of yours-truly, at right.
...but that relative dead-zone of news ended at approximately 10:00 am Pacific time when Facebook's Dustin Moskovitz invited none other than Research In Motion's co-CEO Mike Lazaridus on to the stage to announce a native Facebook Application for BlackBerry. The application itself should be available later today and it's a bit of a blow to Palm - who has been trying to hang on to their lead in the consumer-smartphone space against RIM. With their Pearl and Curve models, RIM has been pushing very hard in this space.
Crackberry.com's editor Kevin Michaluk has posted up images and screenshots from the keynote, as well as details about the app itself. The application is fully native, fully integrated into many of the other BlackBerry applications, and is fully push-enabled. Facebook alerts utilitze RIM's push technology built into BIS (what the heck is BIS? Kevin explains here) to make the Facebook app nearly as compelling as Blackberry's email app. .
Microsoft System CenterMobile Device Manager 2008
Microsoft's news was big for business, but pretty useless to consumers. Nonetheless, it will make a big splash in the mobile world. They've unveiled the 'Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008.' Even the acronym is awkward to type: MSCMDM08.
Microsoft is going to be bringing their multi-user multi-computer administration interfaces to the mobile world. Group policy, easy addition of mobiles to Microsoft domains, the pushing of installed applications, updates, remote wipes, patches, hacks, you name it. It's all push now. And that's crazy advanced. These new features are aimed squarely at RIM -- RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) does all of these functions as an add-on to Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft's premium groupware solution. MSCMDM08 will do what BES does, and I'll wager that Microsoft will force prices down -- forcing BES into a 'premium' solution while Microsoft captures the 80% "good enough" market. And now, Microsoft will be able to sell a metric crapload of Windows Mobile Devices to enterprise clients. In other words, Windows Mobile is now much more attractive to businesses. Well, it will be in 9 months, anyway, when Microsoft releases it. You know what I mean.
In terms of new smartphone gadgety news, it's been thin. Most of it is new Windows Mobile phones.
In terms of Windows Mobile phones, i-Mate is almost ready to release a bunch of killer phones with a bunch of functionality that will leave a lot of the other Windows Mobile phones in the dust. Speaking of the 8502 specifically: thin, 1-handed qwerty, $600-$800, GPS, Wi-Fi, fast 3G, XGA display out at 1024x768. If you do a lot of mobile presentations, you should know exactly what I'm talking about here: putting a powerpoint presentation on your mobile phone, connecting it to the projector with a cable, and putting on your show for everyone. The 8502 should be available this year, but probably not available on any U.S. carriers anytime soon.
Sprint HTC Touch
Dieter got to play with a Sprint HTC Touch. HTC has been copying iPhone gestures, and they're doing a decent job of it. They call it TouchFLO, and it includes advances such as a suretype-style keyboard, a TouchCube Rubik's cube style home screen interface that looks to be pretty compelling, and the keyboard is much more receptive to keypresses, so it will be much easier to type on than previous HTC Touches.
Samsung Blackjack II
In what will be one of the more anticipated gadget updates, the popular Samsung Blackjack gets a refresh. Samsung is calling it the Blackjack II. It's largely a honing and tech spec update, and it finally brings Windows Mobile 6 to the Blackjack. There are some new features, though. For example, they've incorporated an Apple iPod-esque scroll wheel right in the five-way. It remains to be seen if the original Blackjack will get the Windows Mobile 6 update, which could make an upgrade to the Blackjack less compelling. The new Blackjack II keeps the battery life of the extended battery Blackjack I, but with the non-extended Blackjack I form-factor.
Treo 750 Firmware Update
Speaking of Windows Mobile updates that we should already have by now, we spotted a flyer at AT&T's booth that mentioned that the Treo 750 should have a software update soon that brings long-awaited HSDPA and all the benefits of Windows Mobile 6. There's no word on what the big holdup was on getting it out, but it's apparently ready for release in the very near future. It will be interesting to see what manner of "special sauce" that arrives alongside WM6.
That's all the hot news from CTIA except for "one more thing." We had a chance to interview Palm Exec Joe Fabris about the new Microsoft server sofware and other Treo-related stuff. It was a great interview and expect a write-up tomorrow morning!