CTIA Notes and NEC 3G Recalls
WWJ contributor Michael Thuresson was in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week and managed to pull himself away from the one-armed bandits long enough to drop in on the CTIA “Wireless IT and Internet 2002” fall show. His report below was culled from a late-night, bleary-eyed email dispatch (italicized annotations partly contributed by me). Who says war correspondents in Kandahar have more fun than tech stringers in Vegas? 😉
- On the Hollywood Unwired panel at the Mobile Entertainment Summit, Ted Cohen, VP of New Media at EMI Recorded Music, said on the subject of ringtones: “How to monetize P2P wireless music distribution is key. Many US music people want to kill P2P distribution. The Net music scene in the US is a mess.”
- FYI, Cohen is a former exec at Warner Bros. Records.
- More from the Hollywood Unwired panel, this from Shawn Conahan, president of Moviso (a division of Vivendi Universal): “We need to create an environment so consumer marketing companies can come into the wireless space – i.e. AOL, Yahoo. These companies have just started to dip their toe in the water. Wireless is a distribution channel, but it’s still viewed as complimentary to other methods of retail media distribution.”
- Note that Moviso has already licensed “thousands” of content titles, including ring tones, from Japan, and Conhan’s distribution concept looks an awful lot like what Japanese carriers have already created.
- Sony Entertainment Corp.’s COO John Smedley called for the carriers (he named Sprint and Verizon) to handle more of the integration for each handset and take the burden off of developers. He said wireless development is currently too time consuming and costly.
- Interestingly, it appears that Nokia and Motorola are taking this role: both are busy aggregating content and optimizing it for their handsets and then flogging the results to carriers – several recent deals were mentioned in recent WWJ issues. Moviso’s Conahan told me this is typical: the handset makers traditionally tell the US carriers what handsets will be available and force the issue, in contrast to the carrier- dominated model in Japan.
- The myth continues: I heard two wireless data experts, both panel moderators, in the past two weeks say that Japan’s lack of PC/fixed line Internet is a fundamental reason wireless Net has succeeded there. No mention of the explosion in DSL/broadband usage in Japan in the past two years.
- FYI, the culprits were Michael King, Sr. Analyst at Gartner Group and Michael Stroud, journalist and CEO of Mobile Tech Forum (which organized the Mobile Entertainment Summit). Readers of WWJ will be aware of this long-standing fallacy and plain wrong fact that – like the stench from a sumo stable’s laundry room – just won’t die.
- Bob Huntley, CEO of Dwango (USA), admitted there is a big hurdle for potential BREW developers. He questioned why developers must pay Qualcomm to approve and tweak the application, and contrasted this to the openness of J2ME, i.e. developers don’t have to pay Sun to develop a J2ME app. He questioned whether the more robust backend services for BREW (billing, for example) are worth it.
- Huntley’s opinions are not to be dismissed lightly; tiny game maker Dwango is one of my favorite companies (Hudson Soft is another) and they’ve managed to stay afloat despite competition from giants like Bandai and others. If he says BREW presents hurdles, it probably does.
The other news from last week that I thought particularly noteworthy was DoCoMo’s recall of 1,640 Toshiba 3G handsets, the new T2101V, due to software glitches. Sales of the handsets have been suspended until a fix is found, and buyers are being contacted and offered full replacements at no cost.
This shows, once again, that 3G is proving to be particularly hard. But is it a question of a few minor, if somewhat embarrassing, glitches sneaking past QC (after all, DoCoMo andToshiba are two of the world’s most sophisticated tech companies — surely nothing major could be wrong?) or does this point to a deeper, more systematic difficulty with creating software for high tech handsets that works on 3G W-CDMA?
Obviously, neither company is saying much. The press releases on both companies’ websites were cryptic as they were apologetic. As the UK’s Inquirer pointed out,DoCoMo “has become the first operator to recall a 3G handset” although, more correctly, DoCoMo had already become the first carrier to do so back when it had problems with about 1,500 NEC N2002video phones last November (the handsets would freeze and dump user data). Also, NEC recalled 3G handsets initially deployed on Manx Telecom’s 3G system last April, but that was during trial stage.
DoCoMo’s FOMA is still in early days, and in some ways the software problems with 3G merely mirror the spate of recalls that occurred in the first six months after Java rolled out in January 2001. Japanese handset makers – arguably the world’s best – are teaming up and boosting the number of engineers assigned to phone software (I recall in August last year that NEC said it would partner with Matsushita Communication specifically for 2.5G and 3G technology focusing on Europe and “the rest of the world”) and I suspect they’ll get it right sooner rather than later.
Part of the problem is that so few FOMA handsets have been sold that the makers have little incentive to commit to major R&D and commercialization of 3G models. December’s FOMA “Big Bang” – DoCoMo is due to introduce a whole domburi full of new models – will help to boost consumer take-up and – hopefully – get more of the bugs identified and squashed.
Note that NEC announced today that Hutchison Whampoa has increased its November 2001 order for 3G video-capable terminals (for Hutchnetworks worldwide) from one to two million! I think NEC will get it right…
Hi Daniel, Michael
Referring to the article below from WWJ 76. Yahoo Japan has had an i-appli Instant Messenger service which is integrated with a normal Yahoo! Japan (not other Yahoo!) accounts for months. [It’s] not a client, but there are also Web pages were you can use MSN IM from a keitai, such as www.mister-i.com/i-mode/. I also remember KDDI/au was advertising IM on a keitai but don’t know how this worked.