Question: What were people talking about at PCS '99?
Answer: Not talking.
It wasn't voice services that held center stage during the keynote presentations or the spotlight on the show floor. It was data services. It was the flurry of microbrowser-equipped phones introduced at the show. And it was about the market growing through the advent of wireless Internet connectivity.
As PCIA president Jay Kitchen said in his show-opening address, "There is a huge user base waiting for wireless data capability."
Ted Leonsis, president of America Online's Interactive Properties Group, said AOL wants in on the wireless opportunity. "The wireless industry is the sleeping giant of the Internet," he said. "This is the biggest opportunity we will ever have. And we've got some catching up to do."
Yahoo! Everywhere VP/general manager Mohan Vishwanath echoed Leonsis' sentiment. "We know that there are more wireless devices out there than there are PCs. So reaching those devices is an important effort for us."
To help deliver content to wireless users, manufacturers showed off their latest data-enabled products.
NeoPoint, for example, introduced its dual-mode 800MHz CDMA NP1600, a Wireless Application Protocol-enabled large-screen PDA/phone similar to its 1.9GHz NP1000, already available from Sprint. AirTouch Cellular is the first wireless carrier to offer the NP1600, which will be available soon.
Nokia unveiled its 7100 series media phones, which are WAP 1.1-compliant for secure Internet and Intranet access. They could be used to access e-mail, news, and airline flight schedules, as well as conduct wireless banking and e-commerce. The 7190 (GSM-1900) and 7160 TDMA trimode will be available during the first half of 2000.
On the first day of PCS '99, Nokia and CNN announced the debut of CNN Mobile, a wireless news service that they will market through the carriers to consumers. Other Nokia content partners include Bloomberg, MapQuest.com and The Weather Channel.
The notion of connectivity certainly isn't lost on Motorola, which is building information-synchronizing software called TrueSync into many of its new devices. TrueSync was developed by Motorola's StarFish division to let users synchronize names and numbers between computer-based PIMs, PDAs and wireless phones.
TrueSync will be built into Motorola's first dual-band CDMA digital wireless phone, the 1.9GHz CDMA/ 800MHz analog ST7867W, and its next-generation CDMA digital StarTAC, the 800MHz dual-mode CDMA ST7860.
Motorola has yet to release prices or exact release dates, though both phones are expected out by the first half of 2000.
With an eye on future applications, Samsung showed prototype phones that combine voice and data services, as well as other unusual features.
As he pointed to a combination mobile phone/audio MP3 player, sales and marketing VP Peter Skarzynski said, "This is just a concept piece. You could dial into a music-delivery service, purchase a song, and download the MP3 file right then and there."
Samsung plans to sell this phone in Korea, but has yet to make that decision for the U.S. market.
(Similarly, Motorola demonstrated the downloading of spoken-word content from Audible.com's Web site to a microbrowser-equipped iDEN phone, which played the content back through its built-in speakerphone.)
Samsung heralded its SCH-850 and SCH-8500 phones, both featuring Phone.com's UP.Browser microbrowser, PIM functions, voice recorder and large displays.
The SCH-850 is a dual-mode 800MHz CDMA handset, and the SCH-8500 is a dual-band 1.9GHz CDMA/800MHz analog phone. They'll be available in 2000 at prices to be determined.
Audiovox unveiled a line of "clamshell" style handsets due out this month. The phones will feature large, easy-to-read display panels and full-size key pads in a palm-size design.
The line will debut with the PCX-3500XL, a 1.9GHz CDMA handset with a titanium-colored front and black back that Audiovox is making exclusively for PrimeCo. The handset features a four-line x 14-character display, weighs 4.4 ounces, and offers Vibraring, caller ID, voice/text message alert and a 99-number alphanumeric memory.
The 3500XL also boasts up to 145 minutes of digital talktime or 50 hours of digital standby time.
Coming in December is a silver-colored PCX-3500 that will be available to other PCS carriers.
Also this month, Audiovox will ship the 800MHz CDMA CDM-3300, another clamshell-style handset.