Storm warning: the next generation of mobile is here


16 Oct 2008

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Vodafone Ireland CEO says a new mobile device revolution is underway.

Vodafone Ireland chief executive Charles Butterworth is quite generous in his praise of Apple’s iPhone. Although Vodafone doesn’t sell the device in this country, Butterworth nevertheless gives credit where it’s due.

“You’re going to see a lot of developments in the device space over the next 12 months. You could call Apple the kick-starter of this movement.”

Apple’s iconic iPhone multimedia smart phone, with its large touchscreen and its single button, has kick-started a new form factor – or shape – for mobile devices.

Quickly following in Apple’s wake were devices such as the Samsung Tocco, the Nokia  5800 XpressMusic and the HTC Dream, which was launched recently in the US by T-Mobile and features Google’s Android operating system (OS).

In the coming weeks, Sony-Ericsson will endeavour to strike a return to form with its Xpheria smart phone. And last week, Vodafone and Research in Motion (RIM) revealed the BlackBerry Storm.

All the devices – with the exception of the Sony-Ericsson Experian, which has a slide-out keyboard – have jettisoned buttons, opting instead for large screens and boosting their performance as devices for receiving and sending email, accessing the internet and managing users’ music and videos.

“We’ll look back in history at now as being the moment when mobile devices moved from being all about the hardware to being all about the software, and there’s a lot more developments to come,” Butterworth says.

The new BlackBerry will be the first clickable touchscreen phone purposely built for Vodafone, and will feature easy access to social networking sites, turn-by-turn satellite navigation and music and video players.

Users can also access all Vodafone’s entertainment and information services, including Vodafone Music, Google Maps, Find&Go navigation and the Vodafone live! portal, while also benefiting from a removable battery, a 3.2-megapixel digital camera and up to 16GB of exchangeable memory.

“We’ve learned through the iPhone and other devices that the mobile handset has moved from being a piece of hardware that receives calls and text messages to being a lot more about the user and their experience as customers,” Butterworth says.

“This has resulted in a lot of players who wouldn’t have been traditional mobile players – such as Apple and Google – jumping in and moving the game forward.”

Traditionally, the mobile handset has been dominated by the Symbian OS, which is championed by Nokia, Sony- Ericsson and Motorola, and which competes with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, the Palm OS and RIM’s BlackBerry OS.

Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone operating systems are the new kids on the block.

Asked about where mobile operators will stand in this evolving market, Butterworth observes that they will still want their own branded handsets. “Our own branded handsets are selling well in the marketplace in Ireland and around Europe. We have a clear goal of being a major industry player in the handset business.”

The new class of mobile devices, from the iPhone to the Storm, has made mobile phones innovative again after a long period of ‘samey’ devices, Butterworth believes.

“Innovation goes through cycles of speeding up. We’ve witnessed the PC revolution, the internet revolution and the mobile revolution, and we’re now witnessing a second mobile revolution that embraces PC and internet technology to create a valuable business and entertainment experience.

“You’ve got to remember, it’s not just software companies that are becoming involved with handsets, the underlying technology of mobile – the networks – are responsible for this revolution too.

“If we hadn’t got 3G, if we hadn’t got HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) networks that provide high-speed data, none of this would be possible. Players like RIM or Apple wouldn’t be creating handsets where internet content is relevant to the man on the street.”

Butterworth is confident the current acceleration in mobile device innovation will continue, even in a harsh economic environment. “It’s like all great revolutions: few things fall into place at the same time.”

Charles Butterworth will be speaking at the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) Annual Conference, which is taking place next Tuesday, 21 October at Dublin Castle. For more information, go to www.tif.ie.

Pictured: a new era of the mobile phone is now underway, says Vodafone Ireland CEO Charles Butterworth. The BlackBerry Storm, forecast to hit Vodafone stores with its touchscreen and web technology in the coming weeks, will compete with the new generation of mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone and the Nokia 5800

Gale-force winds of change forecast for mobile handset business

  • BlackBerry and Vodafone ally to unleash Storm in mobile market
  • Apple about to reach 10 million sales of iPhone devices in first year of release
  • Google Android operating system available for free and first Android-operated device, HTC Dream, available in US
  • Nokia to debut touchscreen phone, the 5800 XpressMusic

By John Kennedy

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