It's the Consumer, Stupid

Somebody once said that eyes are the window to the soul, but after visiting last week's CTIA I've come to the conclusion that the real window to the soul is a wireless PDA with multimedia capabilities.

CTIA was certainly more interesting than a wireline geek-fest. Boring, fixed-wireline events as the former GlobalComm and Telecom Next have been creeping deeper and deeper into the boredom zone. ("Come see our flexible dynamic ROADM switching technology!") Let's face it: The wireline buzz has been shrinking, despite their hollow claims to be moving into content world.

The fact remains that most of the more interesting developments are now coming out of the wireless world. Witness the growth of CTIA, which has morphed from a handset show into a conference about wireless technology being used to build the new consumer distribution network. The show was not just filled with technology vendors, but film, gaming, banking, and Internet applications.

These new applications have caught the fancy of consumers and helped create at least a half-dozen new revenue streams where formerly there were none: Ringtones, text messaging, music downloads, video clips, games, and interactive voting. Compare that to the boring wireline world, which is largely limited to phone plans and plain-vanilla broadband. C'mon! Much has been made about FTTH and IPTV, but the subscriber numbers are tiny. FTTH is talking about deployments in the thousands whereas wireless phone plans now exceed the number of people on earth.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that the wireline service industry is not paying very close attention to the appetites of consumers. So my advice to telecom suits: Listen and watch the consumer, and what they are using on their devices. It's the consumer, stupid.

The consumer – the mindless, debt-ridden spendthrift that he is – is much maligned. The consumer sets standards for taste (however low they may be), drives new applications, and tells us exactly where the world is going. After all, it was not an executive in a suit that told us the Web browser would be the de facto interface for nearly every application on earth. It was the end user.

The trend toward "consumer everything" is interesting to me because it seems like the "consumer" market is enveloping the "business market." The lines are blurring. People pick up their PDAs at home, while they watch TV. They toggle seamlessly between work and play. They listen to iPods at work. The consumer channel is no longer separate from the business channel. They are one in the same.

The content companies have certainly caught on to this, and they are starting to invest in a big way. They see the opportunity to grow revenue streams with the wireless consumer.

"We believe that mobile content is an unbelievable channel to the consumers," said Eric Berger V.P. of Mobile Entertainment a Sony Pictures, which claimed to be the first major studio to buy a booth at CTIA.

Berger says the media companies will be out in force in the wireless industry, because that's where it's going. It's no longer about making phone calls, it's about entertainment. Sony Pictures is building an entirely new platform designed to extend all of its products across IP networks, with wireless networking a focus.

"We are a video company and we think it's the next wave of the wireless industry – there are all these incredible multimedia devices coming to the market," says Berger. "CTIA is not only the biggest wireless show, but it's becoming the biggest media show."

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fanfare 12/5/2012 | 3:09:24 PM
re: It's the Consumer, Stupid Hey Scott,

No doubt the opportunities for wireless advances are exciting, but I think you are overstating a bit when you downplay wireline.

We're just getting started on wireline (FTTP) capability, and as such the inventions haven't really had a chance to filter down from the minds of all those techno-geek-genius types. My point here is that while it may seem that fixed line data devices are limited, this is mainly because we've had the opportunity to witness what is available for use in this arena because the 'internet' has been around for a while. The difference here is that you and I are, perhaps subconciously, basing our perspectives on the technology that is in place now... which is limited. We need to give the creative process some time to work after 50-100 mbit/sec pipes are in place and companies begin to take advantage of what can be accomplished over such a medium. Entertainment and communication in the home will never be fully displaced by activities we engage "on the run" so to speak. I'm sure you did not mean to imply this. However, I believe that, in your fervor to grasp the 'limitless' developments yet to be discovered for wireless, you have perhaps missed some of the advancements inherent within the wants and needs of the in-home market.

It goes beyond just gaming, movies, and video-chat. Think about the possibilities that might exist when you consider the other three senses by which we recieve information. I know it may sound a bit far fetched, but remember the guy that invented the vibrating 'joystick' used in some of those playstation thinga-ma-bobs? Don't let your mind fall into the cracks of the gutters here, Scott. I mean those gaming controllers that vibrate in your hands whenever you would crash your car while playing "Grand Theft Auto" or some facsimile thereof. Anyway, I think you would be surprised at the market that might become available for all sorts of games and interactive 'social activities' should technologies such as this be developed further. This is just one example but my point is that: high speed data into the home brings wit it a great deal of innovative opportunity. It's a bit more than the concept afforded us all from the "Jetsons" cartoon. Plasma/LCD's that take up entire walls and link to a server where we have uploaded our entire home movie/photograph catalogue.... presto .. instant murials that change whenever we feel like it. Heck, we could turn a room into a condo at the beach in seconds.. complete with sound, surf, and gentle breezes right off the ocean (oh .. not to mention those bikinis filled with ... well, use your imagination).

Hey, forget about plasma for a minute. Lets talk about holograms. How far are we from having the capability to generate a "holo-deck" ... similiar if not exactly like that imagined by the creators of Star Trek ... TNG? Okay, maybe I've gone too far now .... but I'll bet we could get close to it ... ya just never know for sure .. do ya?

Anyway, I'm sure there are many more illustrations we could discuss, but I don't want to appear to involved in your writing. After all, you were just expressing an opinion... which is all I'm doing as well. I just bought VZ today ... first time since I've owned that stock since I left the company. Maybe I'm just a bit giddy from all that research.


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