What Did You Get for Christmas?

10:15 AM -- First of all, happy new year. This is going to be a very eventful year for wireless, and I’m once again very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss my favorite subject in these pages. And, as always, I welcome your comments, feedback, criticism, and anything else you want to say. If I’m not provoking at least a little debate, I’m really not doing my job here.

But let’s start 2007 on the theme of the season: tech gifts. The only gift I received that required batteries was this year’s Hess helicopter truck. Why I got this, I’m not sure. But perhaps you got a new cell phone. If so, I’ll bet is wasn’t the gold-and-diamonds variety sold by Nokia under its Vertu label.

I first saw these while visiting the Nokia store in Chicago, and while I find it hard to believe anyone would pay really the required big bucks for a gold/diamond/platinum/whatever phone, I’m told some have been sold. I don’t think they work any better than any other handset, but, to those who eyeball cell phones for logos, these just scream "rich," which is, I guess, the whole point.

But my point here is that style and design are going to become the most important differentiators in mobile electronics, just as they have in cars, clothes, and many other products, including some in other areas of high tech, like home entertainment systems. Since the internal components will all be the same, only the packaging need change. We’ve already seen this effect in handsets -- people went gaga over the StarTAC and the RAZR and we’ll see many more overt appeals to consumer behavior -- conspicuous consumption and otherwise -- going forward.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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