In many ways, it may feel like we've "arrived" when it comes to wireless technology. But Drs. Irwin and Paul Jacobs, the father-and-son duo who run Qualcomm, pointed out during a chat with CTIA President Steve Largent this morning that the industry has seen major changes over the decades and will continue to see more as mobile devices evolve from being phones to being portable computers.
These days, it takes a cooperated effort to deliver a flashy new device that delivers ground-breaking technology. You've got the combination of the hardware itself and the designs that make it appealing to consumers. You've also got the software, the operating system and applications that give the users the functionality to interact with the device. And you've also got the network - a battleground that's vital because, as we've said here before, you can have the coolest device in the world but if it's running on a crappy network, you've got a flashy cool brick.
But it's not just mobile phones that has the Jacobs duo excited. When you consider what's happening with devices like the Amazon Kindle e-book reader - where whole books magically transmit over the network to appear on a screen - or GPS devices, which can update themselves to reflect changes in traffic or shuttered businesses. Dr. Irwin Jacob joked that he'd like to see a device in his lifetime that will recognize people who are in the same room with him and provide him with a quick recap on this person and what he has been up to - you know, like the stuff we share on our Facebook pages.
That would be kind of nice for those of us who are better with faces than names.
The two also noted that spectrum is very much an issue, just as FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski referenced in his own keynote speech yesterday. Dr. Irwin Jacobs said that, at Qualcomm, the engineers have just about pushed the limits on spectrum efficiency and said that the trends to use more and more data are only going up.
During a keynote yesterday, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega referenced those mobile broadband hogs, those who use so much that they're creating an unfair climate for those who don't use it a lot. Dr. Paul Jacobs chimed in on that topic by saying that some sort of "traffic shaping" was probably going to be necessary at some point. That's different from giving the networks the ability to pick and choose which services run over their networks - the infamous Net Neutrality debate. Instead, the carriers need to come up with a system for monitoring and shaping traffic, After all, the demand is only going to increase.
Speaking of increasing demands, I have to say that I sat through two AT&T keynote sessions this week and couldn't help but notice that, in both instances, AT&T was going out of its way to point to the fast growth in data-usage. The problem was that the company execs on stage didn't seem to be offering this data to point out trends. Instead, they seemed to dwell on that fact that such rapid growth, accelerated by devices such as the iPhone and other smartphones, had taken a toll on its network and how it's working hard to invest and innovate in next-generation technologies.
Because I don't have an iPhone, I can't speak to the service quality inside the San Diego Convention Center or even in the neighboring Gaslamp Quarter, which houses most of the hotels where attendees are staying. But, at one point during AT&T CTO John Donovan's keynote speech this morning, I couldn't help but think that AT&T was focused so much on the heavy data usage tapping the network that the company could have just posted a banner outside the convention center that read, "We're sorry our network sucks but it's not our fault - you people are using it too much."
It would have been just as effective.