Perhaps the biggest news on the handset front at CTIA will be the introduction of a new brand—Alcatel Mobile Phones--to the U.S. handset market. Chinese handset manufacturer TCL will be launching several Alcatel-branded GSM phones at CTIA. These handsets are the result of a joint venture TCL formed with Alcatel in 2004 after Alcatel decided to exit the handset business. Alcatel-branded devices have been launched in Europe, Asia and Latin America, but this will be the first time the handset maker debuts phones for the U.S. market. Alcatel Mobile is obviously angling to make a big splash at CTIA. The company is hosting a big bash Wednesday night, featuring one-hit wonder, “Hootie & the Blowfish.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Motorola, which seems to be pulling back from its CTIA presence. The company cancelled CEO Ed Zander's appearance as a keynote speaker at CTIA, and we’ve heard that the company is also foregoing its industry analyst briefings at the show.
The iPhone hype is a force that cannot be ignored and some carriers are building on that hype by launching their own music player handsets. Look for Sprint to debut a new music handset, the Samsung “Flipper” m620 next week.
Apple’s anticipated iPhone has triggered an industry-wide discussion about user interfaces and usability. In addition, its exterior design--the stylus-less touch screen is turning a lot of heads. Other handset makers will likely launch phones that have an iconic look—I expect one odd, swivel-flip phone that makes use of a stainless steel hinge to make its debut next week.
Recent rumors about a possible sale could put Palm in the spotlight next week. We’ve heard that a sale is imminent. Potential bidders are private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Silver Lake Partners, Nokia and Motorola.
On the operating system front, Microsoft’s launch of Windows Mobile 6 just before the 3GSM World Congress last month put the firm in the spotlight, but don’t expect Windows Mobile to make as big a splash at CTIA. Symbian, meanwhile, will have a large presence at the show with a bent toward the enterprise space. CEO Nigel Clifford will be speaking at the Smartphone Enterprise Summit, co-located at the show. -Brian