It's getting harder than ever to separate the software developers from the content providers. Consider the headline-grabbing events of recent weeks: Nokia introducing Ovi, a new Internet services brand that promises to enable consumer access to social networks, communities and content as well as provide a gateway to Nokia services. Or Google remaining hard at work on the so-called gPhone, a handset platform expected to include its own proprietary mobile OS, mobile versions of existing Google software and services and built-in developer tools. There's Microsoft proclaiming "We really want mass and scale" in mobile and negotiating to acquire a stake in social networking community Facebook. And, last but not least, Apple's iPhone, the device so much in demand operator execs are seemingly willing to sacrifice almost anything to have it.
Heading into this month's CTIA I.T. Wireless & Entertainment event in San Francisco, the mobile market is in flux like never before--Apple and Google, the two brands presently dominating discussion whether the subject is handsets or applications development, were barely a blip on the industry radar even a year ago. Insider reports suggest Google is poised to welcome third-party gPhone applications with open arms--Apple is bound and determined to shut them down, issuing a warning to consumers that it will void the warranties on any iPhones modified either to add unauthorized apps or to operate via networks other than operator partner AT&T. But the volume of iPhone owners who've hacked their devices is emblematic of a fast-evolving consumer perspective--seemingly overnight, the focus has shifted away from conventional multimedia applications such as music and video to more hands-on, interactive services emphasizing messaging, location and voice recognition. For mobile developers with new, even more innovative applications waiting in the wings, the timing has never been better.
Still, at this point it's hard to anticipate exactly what kind of event CTIA I.T. Wireless & Entertainment 2007 will turn out to be. Even the keynote roster suggests an industry moving in all kinds of different directions--record industry mogul Quincy Jones is the featured attraction at Monday's Mobile Entertainment Live! forum, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will keynote the Tuesday morning session, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz will headline Wednesday. But if ever there was a CTIA event to throw stuff at the wall, this is the one--anything and everything has a legitimate shot to stick. Ready, aim, fire. -Jason
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