Mobile Future

Why derail the mobile revolution?

Call it a "Mobile Revolution."

This year’s parade of cool new wireless products is beyond doubt the
greatest, most diverse series of product launches in wireless history.
Apple’s new operating system (OS) and new iPhone are the obvious places
to start, but look at everything else coming to market:

  • Last month, Sprint introduced its Palm Pre, a touch-screen phone with a killer OS.
  • Research in Motion is coming out with multiple new BlackBerrys this year, including an update to its touch-screen Storm.
  • HTC and Motorola will come out with phones using the Android OS.
  • LG, which brought out the Incite last fall, has another high-end handset scheduled for November.

Samsung and Nokia are also rushing out smartphone products, while Microsoft is nearly ready to unveil a new mobile OS.

Meanwhile, mobile applications have taken off like a rocket. "These days, it is all about the apps,"
writes Jenna Wortham, tech reporter for The New York Times. Even two
years ago, the concept of mobile apps produced blank stares. Today, a
PDA that doesn’t have an easily accessible app store simply can’t
compete. Let the numbers do the talking: in just under a year, over one
billion apps–and counting–have been downloaded from the iPhone app
store.

This is the exciting backdrop that makes Sen. Herb Kohl’s recent
broadside against the wireless sector so downright puzzling. In a
four-page, single-spaced letter, he makes no less than eight references
to "barriers to entry" or "barriers to competition." Handset contracts
between manufacturers and carriers come in for even stronger criticism,
as Sen. Kohl calls these a "serious [emphasis added] barrier to competition."

We have great respect for the Senator and share his deep commitment
to ensuring that all consumers have access to competitive, cutting-edge
wireless service. But some of the concerns raised in his letter seem
confusing and counter-productive since barriers to competition
inevitably correspond with higher prices and stagnant product lines.
Yet our smartphone choices are exploding while prices plunge. Two years
ago, consumers would have paid $600 for an iPhone. Today, you can have
a better one for $99 – a hefty 83% price drop (even if you factor in
the higher monthly data costs on the new model, it’s still a 63%
savings). And a quick check on Amazon
shows a dozen cool PDAs costing anywhere from $50 to nothing at all
(yes, there’s a one-to-two year commitment required so if you want
unlocked phones with no commitment, click here).

Moreover, despite all the talk of removable SIM cards and the
choices they offer European consumers, the fact is that the smartphone
marketplace is far more diverse over here.

But don’t exclusive contracts inevitably work against consumers?
Nope – they simply force manufacturers to get creative with their
products. Such partnerships are everywhere in our economy, spurring
greater choice and innovation in what we can we watch on our
television, in our movie theaters, the music we download on our MP3
players, and the hundreds of consumer products and brands we buy at
various big box stores.

With so many Americans relying increasingly on their mobile devices
for Internet access, these partnerships encourage investment and
innovation and deliver even more powerful devices to consumers.

There’s no doubt that the current smartphone revolution will do for
mobile productivity what the PC revolution did for office productivity
in the 1990s. A single smartphone generates more data traffic than 30 ordinary cell phones,
which means vast new opportunities for business growth and job
creation. Let’s not derail the mobile revolution with unnecessary
regulations that attempt to solve problems that don’t exist.

Every day, we see announcements for new wireless devices and
options. With so much competition in the sector and tremendous
opportunities ahead in the wireless space, consumers are in the
driver’s seat of today’s wireless sector and need to remain there in
order to ensure continued innovation. So, fasten your seat belts – it’s
going to be a great ride.

This item was orignally posted on Huffington Post on July 9, 2009.