CTIA Scorecard: U.S. operators

Whose profile is rising:  Verizon Wireless.  Verizon clearly wanted to tout its Open Development Initiative at the year's CTIA Wireless 2009 conference--and it succeeded. During his keynote address, Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, indicated the company has certified some 36 devices in its Open Development Lab, including a smart-grid device that monitors energy consumption and a wireless tablet for the healthcare industry that serves as a portable medical chart.

During the operator's press conference later that day, Verizon Wireless President Lowell McAdam provided a bit more color to what types of devices the operator is certifying. "We said we wanted to be smart and move where the market drove us," McAdam said. "Right now there is pent-up demand for machine-to-machine communications. You'll see phones, PDAs and laptops. Things like e-readers are hot. We have four or five of those working through the lab."

Verizon Vice President of Open Development Anthony Lewis was highly visible at CTIA. He spoke on numerous panels (including the FierceMarkets Path to 4G conference co-located at CTIA) and his message was clear. The success of ODI, according to Lewis, lies in Verizon's partners, whether those partners are distributors, OEMs or other players.

Verizon also announced it would join Vodafone, China Mobile and Softbank in the Joint Innovation Lab, an initiative that promises to create a single global development platform to encourage the creation of mobile web widgets. Established by China Mobile, the JIL will focus on widgets for smartphones as well as mid- and low-cost handsets spanning multiple operating systems. Later this year, the lab will launch a suite of development tools including a common mobile widgets specification, developer kits and an online repository, distribution and payment mechanism.

The JIL is collaborating with many industry standards bodies including the OMTP and the GSMA to outline specifications to simplify widget creation supporting a wide range of handsets, operating systems and networks. The OMTP, you may recall, is the same organization that AT&T is working with to encourage open APIs for developers.

Whose profile is falling: Sprint.  Beleaguered Sprint was nearly invisible at the CTIA Wireless 2009 conference.  The carrier did invite us to visit its meeting room near the show floor, where we were able to watch a demonstration of the highly anticipated Palm Pre handset. We weren't able to touch the phone, but we could watch and take photos of a Palm employee conducting a demonstration. However, when we tried to get a meeting with a Sprint executive to conduct a more formal interview, our request was denied.

Sprint did have a few executives participate in panel discussions at CTIA. Notably, Todd Rowley, vice president of 4G at Sprint, participated in the FierceMarkets Path to 4G co-located conference, where he talked about the company's embedded device strategy and provided some insight into the success of the Amazon Kindle, which uses Sprint's CDMA network.

Unfortunately for Sprint, Palm chose another venue to announce updates on its webOS software, which could have helped elevate the Pre's visibility had the company chosen to unveil that news at CTIA. Instead, Palm announced at Web 2.0 expo that it would release its webOS software development kit to the developer community at large, after previously limiting access to the SDK to a handful of select programmers. In addition, the firm said third-party developer MotionApps is creating Classic, an emulator the company said will enable most legacy Palm OS applications to run on webOS devices. The emulator will be available for purchase when the webOS-based Palm Pre smartphone hits retail.

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