Comdex 2003 - Wireless and then some

By C.J. Mathias, Farpoint Group |  Mobile & Wireless

1.Sprint's Push-to-Talk (PTT) - Sprint has joined Verizon as a competitor in the push-to-talk instant-voice-communications business with "PCS Ready Link", using a similar technology and approach. Perhaps even more importantly, though, PTT leader Nextel announced (although not at Comdex) its wideband technology (called "WiDEN"), which will allow it to remain competitive with Sprint and others encroaching on its home turf with high-speed data features designed to preserve market share with its core business customers (See the release). Even though Nextel didn't have a booth at Comdex, it still made a splash in Vegas with plans for an "immersive experience" at the new monorail station at the Convention Center. While the monorail is not yet operational, a train with big "Nextel" lettering was seen slowly cruising the tracks during the entire Comdex event.

2.AT&T's EDGE - Sprint and others have been razzing AT&T about its relatively slow data services, which are based on the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). The upgrade path for GPRS is known as Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution, or EDGE, and AT&T announced nationwide EDGE service at Comdex. See more on EDGE, but it's often described as "GPRS on steroids", with much faster data via improved modulation efficiency - actual performance will be comparable to CDMA's 1XRTT. However, keep in mind that actual over-the-air throughput is but one component of a satisfactory user experience. I've found that server latency is a much bigger issue, and I'll cover this topic in more detail during 2004.

3.A couple of others - There was a nice almost-universal infrared keyboard for PDAs from Hann Hwa in Taiwan. (COMDEX is always a great place to see innovative products from offshore), and the first PDA (a new Sony Clie) with USB On-The-Go, which essentially allows handheld devices and cell phones (among others) to be USB bus masters. This is going to greatly increase the utility and value of mobile products of all forms. Learn more about this here.

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