CTIA Wireless 2012 in New Orleans felt like the year of the comeback. The show itself seemed to have a renewed vigor, as well as what felt like a more expansive show floor than in the past couple years.
Set in a city that recently had to claw its way back from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, you couldn't help but admire the choice of Bill Clinton as the Day 3 keynote. Who better to speak to the nature of a comeback?
It's a cliche, but America loves a good comeback, and tops on the list of possible comebacks at the show, for me at least, was Nokia. I feel like this country is about take notice of Nokia and its Lumia smartphones. I had occasion to speak with Brian Biniak, vice president and global head of partner application development for Nokia, as well as Richard Kerris, vice president and global head of developer relations for the company.
As execs from the company's developer team, Kerris and Biniak were just the people to speak on Nokia's progress. It's seems like everything for Nokia depends on applications right now. It has carrier support. It’s got the hardware in place, and Windows Phone is, as Roger Entner of Recon Analytics told me, "the best operating system that no one is using." I'll go a step further and say that it's on par with iOS and a step ahead of Android in the usability department. The question now is whether Microsoft can loosen the reigns and let Nokia innovate, while also keeping pace with Google and Apple. Throw in the carriers' growing aversion to the high subsidies that come along with the iPhone, and Nokia could be this industry's next big comeback.
On the carrier side of things, I like Sprint as the come-from-behind underdog. While its balance sheet might leave something to be desired, it’s killing it in the customer service department, and their Network Vision initiative, along with the coming rollout of LTE, could put Sprint in a very interesting spot by 2013. There's a lot of grey area when it comes to Sprint's future, but I like where things are headed, as well as Dan Hesse, the man behind the company's recovery.
Technology-wise, the connected home made a comeback to the show floor, but this time as a real world product, not just an abstract conceptual demo. AT&T’s IP-based Digital Life remote home monitoring platform is set for trials this summer in Dallas and Atlanta. The company actually wired up a turn-of-the-century house in the French Quarter and it worked like magic.
Perhaps the real power of a comeback is that few see the good ones coming. CTIA’s fall show, CTIA Enterprise and Apps, reconvenes in October in San Diego, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Nokia has grabbed a little bit of market share back, or if Sprint has snagged a few subs from rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Who knows? Maybe by that time, we’ll be talking about the new BB10 devices… now that could be the comeback to end all comebacks. Au revoir!