Sprint: Wireless Tablets Need a Voice to Take Off
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)’s goal is for every tablet it sells to have a service plan attached to it, but its director of business product marketing believes it’ll take turning the 7-to-10 inch tablets into telephony devices before the wireless versions really take off.
“When [tablets] become a communication device, then you want ubiquitous connectivity, and Wi-Fi can’t provide that,” said the Sprint exec, Jeff Adelmann, in an Open Mobile Summit interview.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the tablet needs to function like a giant phone, but Adelmann thinks it should include whatever the desktop does, including email, text, IM and video conferencing. In addition, he said, it should be connected to the users’ smartphone so that if they get a call on their mobile, they can opt to have it forwarded to their Bluetooth-connected tablet.
Through Sprint’s relationship with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) for its Voice call forwarding and transcription service, the carrier could offer this on connected tablets. Adelmann wouldn’t disclose numbers on how the service is doing, but he said take-up on the consumer side has been solid.
Right now the carrier offers five tablets in its portfolio, three of which are Wi-Fi only. Adelmann said he doesn’t expect any one feature to draw consumers away from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPad, which Sprint doesn’t yet have its hands on. But, he does think mobile features that require core connectivity, like voice, will be what drives sales of wirelessly enabled tablets, in general. (See Sprint Expands Mobile Tablet Portfolio and Sprint to Debut 4G Tablet.)
“There’s no one silver bullet; we could fix one thing and not see the needle move,” Adelmann said. “But, tablets today are primarily companion devices. If you have multiple devices, you want to use services across them.”
That may mean new pricing paradigms in which users can share data between their tablet and smartphone, Adelmann added. Sprint already offers this capability on the business side, and it’s exploring extending it to consumers and family plans as well. The carrier also recently began capping data usage on its tablets and mobile hotspots, breaking from its unlimited heritage. (See The 4G Dichotomy and Sprint's Move to Advance Its Network Vision.)
“As we can treat multiple devices as one unique relationship with Sprint, it will help them see how they can use whatever device they want comfortably,” Adelmann said. “Customers don’t care where they have their [gigabytes]; they have a bucket of data and will pull out what they want. We’re getting there today.”
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile