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Summary:

At the Mobile World Congress trade show that wrapped up yesterday in Barcelona, the mobile and the PC world may have collided, but carriers still have the upper hand. Nvidia, for example, said it will use its Tegra chipset and Windows CE to create a mobile […]

At the Mobile World Congress trade show that wrapped up yesterday in Barcelona, the mobile and the PC world may have collided, but carriers still have the upper hand. Nvidia, for example, said it will use its Tegra chipset and Windows CE to create a mobile computing platform that could cost as little as $99. That’s pretty cool, but in talking with Nvidia’s Michael Rayfield, general manager of the mobile business unit, about the device I was struck by how far the divide between the carriers and the computer makers remain.

While this a platform with features that consumers will undoubtedly want, neither Nvidia nor OEMs can control the most important aspect of the gadget — ubiquitous access to the web. Much like vermouth turns gin into a martini, it takes a 3G or 4G network to turn these tiny computers into mobile Internet devices. Rayfield was fairly sanguine about the carriers’ willingness to embrace full-featured mobile Internet devices on their networks, but I have my doubts.

First, there’s the issue of pricing data plans. It’s still far too expensive to buy data plans for phones, MIDs and laptops — and there are few bundling options. There are also the limitations with the carriers’ current plans, which cap data use at 5GB per month — easy to exceed on a video-playing mobile web device.  Carriers can also cripple devices they sell and subsidize, such as Verizon, which cuts out Wi-Fi, or others that try to protect cash cows like texting by classifying instant messages as texts.

As the relatively open and hyper-competitive world of computing is meeting the closed, oligopoly of the carriers, I hope Rayfield’s optimism isn’t misplaced.

  1. I can’t figure out why someone would want a Windows CE device … In this day with so many more modern OS’s to choose from. It can’t just be price as there are deals on all levels of phones and mobile devices.

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  2. dumb dumb dumb carriers… nationalize the ‘carrier-transport’ part of all of them. make the fiber layers and the equipment that drives them nationally owned and operated and anyone (I hope Google, Amazon,…) can run a ‘data’ network on top of the stupid-fast plumbing. time for a new Consent Decree.

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  3. @rohit: “nationalize the ‘carrier-transport’ part of all of them” Not a great idea! Do you really believed that your political overlords can run a business? (…or anything else for that matter?)

    I live in a country with a government-owned network….$10(us) per gb…for LANDLINE access…mobile is even more expensive….so be careful what you wish for!

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  4. they should just get the device out the door with wifi and a sim card slot. each buyer can than choose there own GSM carrier or just use the wifi part.i want the carriers completely out of the device business. then will will finally get our ‘fat dumb pipes’

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  5. [...] See more here: Nvidia’s $99 Computer Still Needs a Carrier [...]

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  6. Jesse Kopelman Monday, February 23, 2009

    @tom

    The problem is that the Nvidia device isn’t really $100. It’s really $200 with the carriers subsidizing half the real price. You and many others may be willing to pay a large premium for unlocked devices, but the majority of the US market does not yet agree with you. If Apple didn’t have the balls to release an unlocked device, what do you expect from smaller players. Nvidia doesn’t even have a retail business nor do they make finished products, they just come up with reference designs and sell chips to OEM.

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  7. [...] Stacey Higginbotham | Monday, February 23, 2009 | 3:13 PM PT | 0 comments You know how you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover? Well, when it comes to smartphones and netbooks, a semiconductor research firm is predicting that in fact the cover — or rather, the device casing — may soon be one of the only ways to tell the two apart. Portelligent has analyzed the silicon guts of some of the latest generation of netbooks and smartphones, and concluded that they’re becoming more alike — something that should come as no surprise to our readers. [...]

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  8. [...] or mobile Internet devices as cheap computers. The underlying hardware is becoming more similar, connectivity is crucial, and the tasks people use them for are converging. But a key difference between a computer and a [...]

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  9. [...] smartbooks, Qualcomm will have to deal with possible demand for software designed for x86 chips and convincing folks to shell out more money for a data plan on the [...]

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  10. [...] fellow-computer maker Apple may be the inspiration (and a key enabler by getting the carriers to open up their networks and their application stores), it’s Android that will democratize the hardware for mobile [...]

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