There are about 100 top companies that shape the ever-expanding wireless landscape. We recently turned the spotlight on mobile devices, platforms, silicon and management only. That meant no influential networking vendors, such as Cisco or iPass.
The name Alien Technologies is poised to penetrate the mobile world’s collective conscience as being synonymous with RFID.
Already a household brand in the RFID industry, Alien has filed for an IPO. The company, a leading RFID silicon maker, has applied to use the ticker symbol RFID, which in itself will illuminate the industry’s visibility. Even if the IPO flops, it will be a catalyst for greater RFID investment interest and, in turn, the development of new RFID applications. And when Alien becomes the first public pure-play RFID kit maker, other niche RFID outfits may follow.
However, Alien’s impending stock-market debut also threatens to shine a light on RFID projects, the vast majority of which are still in small, pilot stages. Whether this scrutiny will benefit the fledgling industry
Google has a vision of ubiquitous wireless connectivity, so that it can build new search applications that make life easier for consumers, and its advertisers.
This year, the search company became the unlikely builder of a WiFi network in its Silicon Valley hometown, which it plans to turn into one big free WiFi hotspot. The network will be a test bed for future mobile applications and, potentially, mobile devices.
In April, Google won a bid with partner Earthlink to bring free WiFi to 90% of San Francisco by year’s end. Google will give users 300Kbps connections for free. Users, in turn, will endure the wares of Google advertisers.
And late last year, the company quietly launched a free virtual private network service designed for roaming WiFi users at its few free hotspots near its headquarters.
HP blazed a trail with the first antenna-less GPS-enabled handheld, the iPAQ hw6500, last year. It has since upgraded that device, the hw6900, which has a better thumb board and is one of the first to sport Microsoft’s Messaging and Security Feature Pack.
It still has quad-band GSM with EDGE support, WiFi, Bluetooth and the Skype VoIP client preloaded, among other features. The hw6900 series boasts better specifications than others on the market, including Palm’s Treo 700w.
HP also has a notably revamped marketing campaign, spearheaded by Apple’s former marketing guru Satjiv Chahil, which should turn up the competitive pressure.
iAnywhere is among the market’s largest heterogeneous mobile middleware vendors. The company’s XTNDConnect PC mobile device-to-desktop synchronisation software is also making strides. iAnywhere has added support for Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, as well as for Sony Ericsson’s latest models.
The company is also helping mould the RFID space, with new embedded software for RFID hardware makers to build smart RFID readers with beefed-up security features.
And Sybase, which has a majority stake in iAnywhere, is also going toe-to-toe with rivals BEA and IBM in the RFID software space. In February, it launched a new version of its RFID Enterprise stack, which is geared for companies that are moving beyond RFID pilots to more in-field operations. Sybase now claims the deepest stack for enterprise-scale RFID deployments.
The world’s largest chipmaker this year promises to spur more powerful mobile devices with longer battery life, and has wireless convergence visions.
Intel’s new Core microprocessor architecture, the company’s third major refresh, promises to reduce power silicon consumption by at least three times. The first dual-core processor based on the architecture for notebooks is Merom.
By 2010, the company plans to launch another architecture to enable processors 10 times faster than current chips with one-tenth of the lowest-power processors today.
Intel is also rolling out a new 65-nm chip-making process that lets it add more cores onto the silicon while boosting performance. By mid-2007 it plans an even smaller 45-nm node.
Intel is also championing WiMax and plans to ship a .16e WiMax PC card later this year. Already it has claimed the first integrated WiFi-WiMax flexible radio chip that operates in three communications bands. The goal is to merge these two technologies within a few years.
The software maker does not have nearly the same weight to throw around in the handheld mobile market as it does in desktops and notebooks. But it is working to change that.
The ultra-mobile PC offerings to be borne from Microsoft’s Origami project, from hardware partners such as Samsung and Founder, have fallen well short of impressive. Still, if the company can help OEMs evolve beyond the current clunky offerings to more efficient, cheaper handheld machines running full versions of Windows XP, or Vista at some future point, it is sure to shake things up.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS also continues to show up on smartphones from a growing list of vendors. And the company just inked a deal for its Mobile OS to run on smartphones powered by Qualcomm chips, which will begin adding to its market share later in the year.
The number two handset maker has emerged as the industry’s star this year, by gaining on Nokia and its Asian rivals with impressive market share growth.
Motorola’s ultra-thin Razr continues to be among the most desirable phones among business users and teenagers alike. Its HelloMoto promotional campaign has also been a hit with both users and carriers.
And in the first quarter, for the first time in several years, Motorola reached 20% global market share, mostly by outselling Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and others, according to Strategy Analytics.
Motorola, which together with Nokia accounts for a record 53% of the world’s handset market, is also an early mover in developing countries where demand is mostly for low-margin, entry-level phones. But this strategy should pay off in the long run, when users look to upgrade.
The leading mobile phone maker continues to dominate the market and in the first quarter had a slightly larger global share, 32.8%, than its 32.4% full-year share in 2006, according to Strategy Analytics.
The company’s success is thanks largely to its emerging-markets strategy, being first to swoop into most developing countries where it had few credible competitors. Last year, for instance, the company owned a 55% share of the Indian market. Nokia expects emerging markets will account for 80% of its next billion subscribers, and by 2008 it expects its global subscriber base to reach 3 billion.
Nokia, however, is not immune from falling average mobile phone selling prices, a trend it foresees persisting this year. The company also faces challenges in its enterprise unit, which is facing losses, but its acquisition of Intellisync will bolster its performance.
The ongoing legal woes of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is nothing but good news for Palm. While the mobile device maker faces fierce competition from new email-enabled phones from Nokia and Motorola, which will soon hit retail shelves, Palm seems to have hit its stride.
Earlier this year, the company doubled the number of Treo smart phones it sold compared to the same quarter a year ago. Palm has a trio of new Treos to release this year, notably the 700p, which will use the Palm operating system. With as many as 20 million or so Palm OS users today, the 700p will help fuel this installed base.
Last September, Palm also debuted the Treo 700w running on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. This CDMA EV-DO-enabled Windows Treo will help the company expand its footprint further in the North American market, which currently drives about three quarters of its revenue.
Research in Motion
Research in Motion’s BlackBerry email device is so prevalent among corporate users, many of whom struggle to put it down, it has earned the informal moniker ‘CrackBerry’.
So far, the company has shipped about 5 million of its handhelds. And RIM’s recent acquisition of Ascendent is set to help it shore up subscriber numbers. Ascendent’s Voice Mobility Suite will enable RIM to add new voice, notification and collaboration features to the BlackBerry Ascendent, as well as notification and conferencing capabilities to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Whether RIM will choose to license Ascendent’s wares to other handsets remains to be seen.
The company has forecast it will double the number of its carrier customers to more than 300 in its current fiscal year, with the addition of new carriers such as China Mobile. RIM is also preparing to announce a new product that would include support for both Edge and EVDO transport, as well as some UMPS-type support.
Best of the rest
Good Technology, Symbian and Visto nearly made it to the Top 10 this year. Good Technology’s newest GoodLink v4.8 is a winner with enterprises wanting to deploy more smartphones among more workers without huge infrastructure investments, while Symbian continues to carve a mobile OS niche in the emerging mid-market. And Visto is giving market leader Research in Motion and others a run for its money. Visto’s mobile platform is seeing traction, but, moreover, the company is suing Microsoft and seeking to shutter RIM’s BlackBerry service in the US for allegedly infringing on Visto patents.