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CTIA: The Call of the Weird

NEW ORLEANS -- CTIA Wireless 2003 -- Ah, tradeshows!

When a man is tired of life, he's ready for tradeshows, as someone famous once (nearly) said.

Maybe it’s the acres of gleaming white, sanitized space; maybe it’s the bad black coffee; or maybe it’s the potent smell of BS lingering in the air like a fart at a funeral. But by the end of such an event your Unstrung correspondent could really do with a laugh -- or at least something a little out of the ordinary -- to add some sparkle to the tedium of the day.

Sadly, these things were in short supply at this year's show [ed. note: impending military conflict will do that to ya], but it was still there if you looked closely, especially at the Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) booth:

  • Agilent gets props for showing off a cool -- and somewhat out-there -- idea for monitoring the quality of cellular networks' radio transmission. The testing company has developed a little black box that can be installed in a taxi or a train to constantly send back information about how the radio network is performing as the vehicle is in motion. Agilent reckons this will cut costs for carriers that have to send dedicated vehicles to do this today.

  • Sadly, Agilent also had far and away the cheesiest act of the show at its booth -- a 60s-styled girl group performing a little number about network testing every 15 minutes. It was enough to drive Phil Spector out of his mind (no, wait…).

    "Doesn't this drive you up the wall, hearing this all the time?" Unstrung asked Agilent's press representative.

    "Actually, if you listen to the lyrics they're quite informative." Well, Rock On then!

  • Meanwhile, Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) managed to come up with the most uncharacteristic marketing gimmick -- a bottle of Nextel-branded hot sauce.

    Come on! We know this is New Orleans (y'all), but spicy is the last thing that comes to mind when thinking of this dependable yet boring carrier. Next time, can we suggest that the Nextel marketing department hands out a nice pair of sensible shoes…

    This correspondent's feet are killing him.

    — Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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