CTIA I.T. Show: Where's the buzz?

CTIA I.T. Show: Where's the buzz?

I've noticed lull hanging over the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show. In the panel sessions and on the show floor, everyone keeps talking about the fact that there isn't any "buzz" at the show. Companies are making announcements and some deals are being cut, but overall there isn't a hot button topic that everyone is chattering about.

That certainly hasn't been the case in the past. I remember last year's I.T. show in Los Angeles when everyone was talking about the promise of mobile TV. Every time I'd walk down the hall or leave a panel session, I would be swarmed by entrepreneurs wanting to tell me about their latest innovation that was going to give consumers a better mobile TV experience.

I think the difference this year is that companies are much more measured in their approach to the mobile entertainment market. They finally realize that it's going to take a lot of time, money and technical innovation (not to mention marketing savvy) to overcome the many hurdles to delivering mobile content at an affordable price to the mass market.

That realization has caused many of the small startups that were hoping to make a quick buck to go away. Those firms that remain tend to be the committed and the well funded.

Last night I attended a small group dinner with EA Mobile's new general manager Barry Cottle and several other gaming experts from companies such as Forum Nokia and Motorola. Seamus McAteer, co-founder of M:Metrics set the stage for the discussion with some sobering stats. Even though mobile gaming is considered one of the more "mature" entertainment services, only 4 percent of U.S. subscribers download games.

EA's Cottle said that he believes that there is lots of growth potential in the business and his firm is looking at different ways to drive that growth. Perhaps one of the largest hurdles to overcome is the business model. Mobile game publishers are struggling to determine how to price their games so that they make a profit and still deliver the necessary revenue share to their partners. Although ad-supported game models are being discussed, Cottle thinks the ads must be unobtrusive in order to work. "It still comes down to the experience."

There may be no "buzz" to this year's show but there is a common theme developing about the need to build a better and more sustainable business model. The winners in this industry will be those firms that are able to make content more accessible and affordable to the mass market. -Sue

P.S. Our thoughts are with all of our industry colleagues and friends at firms such as Qualcomm, Leap Wireless, LG and the many others that are impacted by horrendous wildfires in Southern California.