2004, what a year in Mobile

2004 is coming to a close, and boy what a year it has proved to be. Two big mergers – Cingular And AT&T Wireless’ $41 billion whopper, and more recently Nextel-Sprint $35 billion marriage – were announced this year. 3G services have started to roll-out, at least in Asia and Europe. In US, it looks like we are on the verge of seeing a massive EV-DO rollout and that should be good news for Verizon, in 2005. Samsung has caught up and inched ahead of Motorola. Nokia has emerged from its deep funk with some modestly priced phones, and of course some of the high-end devices. Microsoft Mobile had a hit finally, thanks to ScoblePhone. Still there is a lot of work that needs to be done, before this 3G wireless vision becomes a reality. Daniel Taylor, Managing Director for the Mobile Enterprise Alliance, explains this quite lucidly on his blog. (PS: Daniel, In 1997/98 I was at Forbes.com, not Fortune.)

people just don’t have the time to sit down and figure out how the device works … ultimately spending a day moving all of their data onto a new smartphone. Once they’ve done this, they suddenly decide that they like their old smartphone so much better. Mobile devices and services are significant commitments, both in terms of capital and monthly outlays. Once someone forks over $250 for a telephone, an extra $5/month can rapidly become too much to spend for SMS or data services.

Ease of use is something not many companies in technology discuss, or rather like to discuss. It is not easy to make everything simple. A lot of people used to laugh at AOL, but in many ways they brought the Internet experience to the lowest common denominator – grandma, non-nerd and chief executives of large companies. Wireless needs to go through that process. Taylor’s comments ring true, because like a lot of others I get eval units, and my head is spinning after data transfer alone. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed by the wireless carriers, and handset makers. And of course Apple, which is falling behind in ISync support for new devices.