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Thursday, April 24, 2008

T-Mobile sees upcoming Android Phone Release as Bringing 'Avalanche'

SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- With Deutsche Telekom AG's (DT) T-Mobile USA Inc. preparing to ship out its first cellphones built on Google Inc.'s (GOOG) open Android platform later this year, wireless carriers are expecting an avalanche of innovation from users - and radical changes to what customers expect and demand.

But some disagree on where start-ups should focus their efforts if they aim to make money in this fast-changing landscape.

At the Wireless Innovations 2008 conference in Redwood City, Calif., sponsored by Dow Jones & Co., Joe Sims, vice president and general manager of T-Mobile's broadband and new business division, said he had already seen prototypes of the company's Android-based phone, which are scheduled to ship in this year's final quarter.

(This story also appeared in Venture Wire, a newsletter published by Dow Jones & Co. that covers the venture-capital industry.)

"I'm impressed," he said. "We will have more than one product...(The move to an open platform) will be innovation across the board, not just one device."

T-Mobile, like other carriers, was leery of Google at first, because the open platform that the search giant was pushing seemed radical and untested, Sims said. T-Mobile is now a part of Google's Open Handset Alliance, as is chip maker Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM).

Like T-Mobile, Qualcomm was "skeptical" of Google's plan at first, said Sayeed Choudhury, Qualcomm's vice president of product management for CDMA technologies. "But we got over that hurdle when we saw the use-case models," Choudhury said. "The Web-browsing, the taking and uploading of pictures."

Choudhury said he expects big changes to happen fast once the Android phones get into consumers' hands. Nedim Fresko, director of strategic platform initiatives at Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM), predicted T- Mobile's release would be a "wake-up call for innovation."

But conference panelists differed on what areas of mobile technology - video distribution, social networking, enterprise or entertainment - were likely to heat up first.

"Security is the issue," Fresko said. "People want secure, managed and safe" networks.

John Smelzer, a senior vice president and manager of News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox Entertainment Group Inc.'s interactive media division, said photo and video distribution would be the "next killer app."

News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires.

Fox isn't immediately interested in moving social networks to mobile, Smelzer said, but it sees great potential in start-ups working on applications that replicate the broader online experience on handsets - for instance, middleware companies, content aggregators, ad distributors and companies working on encoding and transcoding data.

Subscription-based video has served Fox well, Smelzer said, and the company plans to continue that model as networks and handsets move toward openness.

"For the long tail, we think it will be mobile Web," he said.

T-Mobile says all of its offerings will be tailored to the consumer, and the consumer, in turn, will tell the carriers what they expect their mobile devices to be able to do.

Panelists agreed that the major, inevitable changes in the next few years won't be top-down changes, but will be a response from carriers to consumers, who are going mobile in ever greater numbers and learning to expect much more from their phones. In addition, they said, the time is ripe for innovators and start-ups to deliver what consumers want in new, possibly lucrative ways.

"The college kids out there have all the ingredients, finally," said J.H. Kah, senior vice president of Korean cellular service provider SK Telecom Co. (SKM).

"It's so easy and cheap for these kids to start new ventures," Kah said. "VCs ought to look at very early-stage (companies), but the real winners (will be) those that stick around a few years."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Enkin - Navigation reinvented

Enkin from Enkin on Vimeo.

"Enkin" introduces a new handheld navigation concept. It displays location-based content in a unique way that bridges the gap between reality and classic map-like representations. It combines GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Google + Skype?

Is Google getting ready to end the need for costly mobile phone minute plans and create a major upset in the mobile carrier industry? Their coming handsets could be game changing for giving users more power over their mobile handsets, but is Google could also be going after the carriers.

This week Techcrunch broke news that Google and EBay are in talks about a Skype acquisition or partnership deal. Michael Arrington postulated that Google could be working to integrate their Grand Central, GTalk VOIP and other Voice services such as Google 411 to the Skype community. These services are all complimentary and could be a natural fit for the Skype community. The VOIP market has not seen substantial growth as people have become more reliant on the cell phones. While it’s currently possible to run Skype on some mobile phones, it has yet to come into the mainstream.

Google Android and Skype are a match that’s made for each other. Android handsets are poised to spread like wildfire across the open source and developer communities upon release. Since it’s built on linux, it should be stable enough to run VOIP applications with ease. Combined with Grand Central, you would be able to get your calls and messages anywhere. This means that you can have a fully functional Android phone with Skype and never need a monthly minutes plan.

The mobile network operators have carried on the status quo of charging separate monthly fees for voice and data plans for long enough. Just like we went from paying for long distance telephone calls to one monthly fee, why can’t our mobile phones do the same for voice and data?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Andy Rubin demonstrating new version of Android

Here's a video of Andy Rubin, the Android head honcho at Google, showing off a newer build of the mobile OS on a touchscreen phone, time for some Quake & Google maps, street view.
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