CTIA: More about the lingering open debate

As I write this column, the first day of the 2009 International CTIA Wireless conference is just getting under way. But already the buzz in the hallways, the media center and the pre-CTIA cocktail parties is about the lingering uncertainty about "open."  What does "open" mean to network operators? What operating systems are open and does that make them better, easier or just more confusing for mobile developers? 

Although the "open" debate isn't new, I still find it interesting. Why? Because the definition keeps evolving as the hype grows.  All the carriers have an "open" network story to tell at the show, but the versions are very different.

I expect Verizon Wireless to tout its Open Development Initiative this week (which is primarily focused on getting more devices on its network). More devices will be announced, but don't expect sexy Amazon Kindle-type e-readers. The early devices through Verizon's ODI program are still fairly niche and industrial, more like true machine-to-machine devices rather than consumer products like the e-reader.

T-Mobile USA will be focusing on its use of the open operating system, Android. And the carrier has a reason to brag about the G1, the first device using the Android OS. T-Mobile says that G1 customers use 50 times the data usage of the average voice-centric customer and that about 80 percent of G1 customers browse the Web on their phone daily. In addition, the company says G1 users access Facebook and YouTube at least once per week and half of the G1 customers access WiFi daily.

AT&T, meanwhile, seems to be working hard to rally the industry around open APIs as a way to get more applications across devices and networks. Will the other operators follow suit? It's hard to say but certainly mobile developers would benefit from this type of initiative.

Be sure to stay tuned to Fierce for all the latest CTIA news. The Fierce team will be constantly updating our news at the CTIALive.com site and at FierceWireless, FierceMobileContent, FierceDeveloper and FierceBroadbandWireless. --Sue

P.S. The usual excitement and buzz surrounding the annual CTIA trade show has dimmed significantly due to the sudden death on Monday of CTIA veteran Mark Desautels.  Mark was a powerful force behind the CTIA conference, particularly the educational sessions. He will be greatly missed.