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Mobile Industry Discovers It's the Software, Stupid

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Old 09-11-2008
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Mobile Industry Discovers It's the Software, Stupid
Hardware schmardware. Real wireless geeks know that pretty industrial design is only skin deep. The software on the inside is what makes the difference between a barely usable piece of eye candy (Motorola Z10, we're looking at you) and a revolutionary, industry-changing device like the iPhone.
That's why your next cellphone will have a slicker user interface, a cleaner menu and plenty of mobile applications to help you manage your photos, videos, evening plans and friendships. You may not even care who made your hardware -- especially if you're running the Google-backed operating system called Android.
This week the world will a get preview of the software, apps and operating systems changing mobile tech at a San Francisco trade show with the awkward name of CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment. The focus will not be on new handsets, but on what's happening behind the screens.
"There's not much to expect on the hardware front," says Avi Greengart, a research director at Current Analysis. "This year the big story is the fragmentation of the OS market and how it will affect media, VoIP, and other applications."
Third-party apps, OS updates, slightly suspect accessories, and nary a new handset in sight. These are the things that CTIA Part II is comprised of. Over the next three days, here's a rundown of what we should see.
Applications
Expect to see a lot of apps dedicated to controlling different household appliances. Downloads already exist for controlling your TiVo and Slingbox from a mobile device, but there should be more apps emerging designed for you to exert totalitarian control over everything from your toaster to garage door opener. (Yes, there will be an app for opening your garage door with your cellphone.)
Operating Systems
Google: Android is the OS everyone is waiting for. And it doesn't even exist yet. "Right now it's vaporware," says Greengart, "but it's still going to make a big splash. Google has enormous resources and they're dedicated to breaking open mobile advertising."
Microsoft: Expect a major overhaul of Windows Mobile to happen in the next year. But despite selling over 20 million units, WinMo will still be, "put on the back burner" according to Greengart -- especially when compared to the Android juggernaut.
Palm: Two million Centro owners can't be wrong, right? Palm will be rewriting its also-ran OS once again this year to stay competitive with Android and to woo more users with Palm's vaunted usability and simplicity.
Symbian: Largely overlooked and dismissed in the wireless industry, the plucky smartphone OS favored by Nokia will undergo some major reconstructive surgery to make its menu structure easier to navigate and to render its most-useful applications a lot more accessible.
Hardware
Although there won't be many new handsets unveiled at CTIA IT & Entertainment (if any), there will be a ton of accessories. Expect to see a deluge of hands-free solutions -- especially gray-market Bluetooth sets -- pouring in from overseas manufacturers.


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