Enterprise spruces tired CTIA show

Mike Dano

This year's fall CTIA Enterprise and Applications 2011 show was perhaps the quietest CTIA trade show in recent memory.

  • The show floor seemed an afterthought, and was populated by a number of empty spaces--companies from Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) to Kyocera opted to forgo booths this year. A number of my meetings were held off site.
  • There were few major news announcements at the show. Samsung and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) pulled their planned unveiling of the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android via a Nexus Prime just a week before the start of the show. The companies said they did so in deference to the passing of Steve Jobs, but I didn't find anyone who believed that excuse. Moreover, during the show, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Motorola scheduled a major handset unveiling for next week--a seeming slap in the face of CTIA.
  • And the first day's keynotes--Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Dan Hesse, AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) Ralph de la Vega and Verizon Wireless' Dan Mead--were tedious at best. Hesse talked about Sprint and CTIA's green initiatives, de la Vega talked about AT&T's efforts at service innovation, and Mead talked about machine-to-machine communications. LTE, the iPhone, Network Vision, Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) and the definition of 4G were issues that, unfortunately, remained untouched.
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Click here to see a slideshow of the phones and tablets at the CTIA show.

Although CTIA didn't tell me what the fall show's attendance numbers were, the event clearly missed half of its target audience. The enterprise portion of the CTIA Enterprise and Applications show was definitely on display, but the apps portion was largely a no-show. Indeed, there appeared to be more handset accessory companies on the show floor than application vendors. And while it's unfortunate that CTIA was unable to wrangle up more app companies, it seems that most app trade shows today center around specific platforms: For example, developer conferences focused on iOS or BlackBerry seem to draw more app vendors than cross-platform events like CTIA.

But, those attending CTIA with an enterprise bent were treated to a notable range of announcements and high-profile attendees. For example, AT&T and Verizon at the show each released a series of new products for enterprise customers, and LG made connected devices and enterprise products a key part of its booth space.

So what were the most notable trends in the enterprise space at this year's CTIA? I think the first and perhaps most important issue in discussion was how businesses should deal with BYOD employees: those who Bring Your Own Device. AT&T and Verizon each separately announced solutions for this issue: AT&T announced Toggle and Verizon said it will offer dual-persona software through partner VMware.

"You could easily have two bills and two identities on the same device" using Toggle, said M. Mobeen Khan, executive director of AT&T's Advanced Mobility Solutions, a group that was set up a little over a year ago inside AT&T to address sales of smartphone-powered enterprise services and connected devices like tablets. More than 18,000 companies have purchased products through the operation.

A separate but equally important trend in the enterprise market is sales of tablets to business users. Both Verizon and AT&T noted that enterprises are clamoring for tablet access to corporate information, and that they are conducting a growing number of tablet trials for such services.

"This year our objective is to get as many [tablet] trials as possible," said Benigno Gonzalez, vice president of enterprise sales operations for Verizon Wireless. Gonzalez oversees enterprise sales of smartphones and connected devices to Verizon business customers with 99 lines or more. He said Verizon counts 500 such customers among the Fortune 1000. "We see it [tablets] as a big opportunity in business."

"Tablets are the highest growing device area for us in the enterprise," concurred AT&T's Khan.

It's worth noting that the fall CTIA show initially launched with a focus on the enterprise, but in recent years it switched to target consumer content like ringtones, music and video. But the rise of the app market appears to have subsumed that part of the show, and CTIA has been left to refocus on its enterprise roots. Whether that will be a permanent change, and one that's for the better, remains to be seen. +Mike Dano