Gizmos That Do It All

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Mobile devices are becoming more sophisticated, more versatile, more personalized and more affordable to the average consumer as telecommunications and entertainment companies try to stay one step ahead of the competition with each innovation. In 2006, the mobile communications industry will offer devices that combine innovations that are normally found individually into one hand-held device. The effort continues the perception that the future of devices will be based on data rather than voice, industry experts say.

Companies including AT&T Inc., Time Warner Cable of Southeastern Wisconsin, U.S. Cellular Corp. and Sprint are looking to the Wisconsin business and consumer markets in 2006 to test and launch new products.

Jason Kayzar, chief financial officer of Milwaukee-based MC2 Inc., said the majority of his company’s marketing efforts in 2006 will be dedicated to Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.’s BlackBerry, even though his mobile phone business-to-business consulting company focuses on other areas and products.

"Businesses find BlackBerry invaluable because wherever they go, they can have access to everything," Kayzar said. "Businesses want to be that connected."

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) with phone, Internet and storage capabilities are becoming a necessity to companies with mobile employees, Kayzar said.

"The computer industry has removed desktop applications and put everything on the Web," Kayzar said. "Their servers are on the Web and they are able to have streaming video at real time speed. When 9/11 happened, we were located downtown and had to keep running over to the Pfister to see what happened. Now we can watch CNN live and have a video conference (on the Web)."

With BlackBerry products, users can have access to their company’s server, send e-mails and read e-mail attachments in Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point. PDAs allow professionals such as insurance agents to take photos at the scene of an incident and instantly get a quote without having to set up a laptop or wait to get back to the office to retrieve photos from a camera, Kayzar said.

"You have 90 percent of the information you need on your hip, 24/7," Kayzar said.

With the migration from voice to data comes the consolidation of devices. It is quite possible that at this moment there are many consumers walking around with an MP3 player, a digital camera, a mobile phone, a PDA and a piece of paper with directions on it, all in their bags.

Many new devices that telecommunications companies will launch in 2006 take all of those accessories, which combined could add up to about $700, and put them on one device with nearly the same quality. Throw in Internet access and a person becomes mobile and clutter-free for under $400.

"The Palm Treo 700w is now available exclusively through Verizon for as low as $399," said John Starkweather, group manager for mobile devices at Microsoft Corp. "The Treo is very compact, only about four inches long, two inches wide and less than an inch thick. It’s packed with features including 128 MB of memory, a large touchscreen display, a full QWERTY keyboard and a 1.3 mega pixel camera."

A QWERTY keyboard means that the keyboard on the device is the same as a computer keyboard, where the first six letters in the first line are Q,W,E,R,T and Y as opposed to alphabetical order or grouped and separated onto each number as letters are on phone keys.

"Without question, we are moving from voice to data," said Lou Brazzoni, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Wisconsin. "As we become a mobile environment we are relying more on wireless devices and in doing so, the data component is the future of wireless."

U.S. Cellular’s innovations are based on customer demand, Brazzoni said. The company has been successful with new technology launches including live streaming video, MP3 phones and PDAs because the cost of technology quickly decreases in the mobile device market, he said.

Sprint Nextel Corp. now carries the Samsung Corp. Sprint Power Vision A900 mobile phone with features including Sprint TV, Sirius Music, global positioning system (GPS) and an on demand service that provides customers with directions, phone directories and top news stories.

Time Warner Cable of Southeast Wisconsin now offers digital cable, high-speed data through Road Runner and a digital phone service. Time Warner Cable continues to add features to its cable division through its on demand service and is currently testing a Fantasy Football channel in Green Bay, said Celeste Slynn, director of public affairs for Time Warner Cable of Southeast Wisconsin.

Southeastern Wisconsin was one of the first markets in which Time Warner Cable launched its on-demand services, Slynn said.

"We believe the pace of innovation is accelerating and we create innovative products because customers have expectations," Slynn said. "They want to watch what they want when they want."

Time Warner Cable announced in November of 2005 that it will partner with Sprint Nextel to converge video, wireline and wireless data and communications products through one service.

With the partnership, consumers will be able to remotely program their digital video recording (DVR) products, have a single voice mailbox for both a land line home phone and a wireless phone, have calling plans that combine the wireless phone and land line phone, send and receive e-mail from the Internet cable account and access streaming television programming, music, video clips, games and pre-recorded DVR programs, Sprint Nextel spokespeople said.

The integration of devices and services, plus the joint-partnerships are attractive to consumers, said John DeVaul, vice president for the Wisconsin consumer market of AT&T.

AT&T also offers a quadruple service package for broadband Internet through DSL, mobile phone services through Cingular Wireless LLC, land line services through the SBC Ameritech networks and now offers television through its Dish network and via the Internet, DeVaul said.

AT&T launched U-verse, the Yahoo Go Mobile phone and Homezone in the start of 2006 and will launch its Yahoo peer to peer phone in the spring, DeVaul and Tiffany Nels, spokesperson for AT&T said.

The peer-to-peer phone is the first hybrid phone that works as a peer-to-peer digital phone and as a land line based phone. With the convergence of other technologies, AT&T has seen a similar demand with land line phones and has implemented features on this hybrid phone including access to online phone and address books, instant messaging and Email, Nels said.

AT&T hopes to be a single source for the communications and entertainment needs of consumers as well as moving from voice to data and toward a single device that takes care of those needs, DeVaul said.

"The great thing about our portfolio of products is that we serve multiple segments in Wisconsin," DeVaul said. "As the technology gets better the holy grail is (every application) is one device."

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