Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Metro leapfrogs 3G to LTE

Dow Jones, PC Mag and others report that CDMA discount carrier MetroPCS is the first US carrier to offer LTE. (That effectively means 2nd for 4G, after Sprint’s WiMax, and ahead of Verizon’s planned LTE launch before the end of the year.)

It launched the service in Las Vegas, but plans 3 other cities by the end of the year.

PC Mag says that the new Samsung Craft is “the world’s first LTE phone,” a dual 2G/4G phone. DJ notes that Samsung supplied the LTE infrastructure for Las Vegas, as well.

This is a rare example in the cellphone industry of “the last shall be first.” Metro skipped 3G altogether, saving a significant investment. Also, roaming for 3G in the US seems to be a lot less common than for 1G or 2G, so the company doesn’t lose anything by not having 3G hardware.

Normally, companies that are low-cost providers don’t lead technological innovation — it’s contradictory to their basis of competitive advantage.

In this case, MetroPCS hopes to gain cost savings by migrating voice off onto LTE-enabled VoIP.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

So much for smartbooks

Qualcomm's effort to create a “smartbook” are officially dead. While a major strategic push in 2009 was creating a mobile communications device that’s in between a smartphone and a laptop, Paul Jacobs admitted Wednesday that the plan is dead.

Instead, Jacobs reportedly admitted that the iPad has filled that niche, in his talk at the IQ2010 event in London. (I say reportedly, because there are no transcripts, videorecordings, or press releases of his talk, and few if any direct quotations).

I never quite got the “smartbook” concept, because it was always somewhat like a netbook or a laptop. The advantage the iPad has is that it‘s a device that can be used in a different way than a laptop — standing up, in a restaurant, on a Southwest flight, etc. — but with some of the screen real estate and computing power of a laptop.

Even if smartbooks have lost to tablets, all is not lost. Unless WiFi coverage gets dramatically better than today, there will be a demand for 3G (or 4G) chips for these tablets as well as ARM-enabled processors like the QCT Snapdragon. And except for HP's (webOS) and Apple’s (iPhone OS) tablets, most will be running Android, which Qualcomm and its ecosystem are well-equipped to support.