CES: Dueling Devices

LAS VEGAS -- Consumer Electronics Show (CES) -- Operators and manufacturers are continuing to flood the market with ever more smartphones and wireless communications devices, despite indications that the market is becoming over-burdened with choices.

  • Apple Talk: Cingular Wireless will be the operator that launches the first cellphone from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), according to reports Monday night in The Wall Street Journal. The long-awaited device could be announced today, according to the paper.

    The Apple "iPhone" has been rumored for a couple of years now. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) recently launched products under that title. So one of the biggest questions about the new device is exactly what Cingular will call it. (See You Say iPhone, I Say...?)

  • Cellphone Skinny: Here at CES, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) unveiled some of its long-promised slimmer handsets. The vendor gave previews of a thin multimedia device -- the $500 N76 -- and a skinnier version of an existing video phone, dubbed the N93i. There's no sign yet of its planned sub-$80 skinny phone, code-named "Barracuda." (See Nokia's Slim Pickings for 2007.)

    Nokia has made no secret of the fact that it is going after the market that Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) carved out with its groundbreaking RAZR phone with these new thinner handsets.

    Its clear, however, that time has blunted the RAZR's edge. Motorola pre-announced disappointing fourth-quarter profits on Thursday, blaming tighter competition in the gadget market. Many industry watchers expect that Nokia could also be affected by tighter margins and tougher competition.

  • Motorik Muzak: Nonethless, Motorola is pushing ahead with more devices at CES, including a Linux-based music phone called the MOTORIZR Z6. The firm is inking deals with Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) in a bid to increase the appeal of such devices.

    What Motorola and its rivals are trying to do is find a formula that will have the same kind of simple and direct appeal as the original RAZR phone. This could turn out to be music phones, skinny multimedia phones, or Apple handsets, but it could also be none of the above.

    — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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