As part of a CES related briefing, I was turned on to a product Motorola is pushing that combines a CDMA femotocell with a software-based phone and a digital picture frame. The femotocell will connect with a user’s existing broadband connection and boost cellular coverage in the home. The picture frame shows pictures and also has a video camera embedded in it. For those of you wondering why this hodge podge of functionality exists, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the trends Motorola is trying to address with this Swiss-Army type device.
- Femtocells: They were hot last year, and this year they may actually see some widespread deployments as carriers cop to the fact that people want decent cell phone coverage in their homes after dumping their landlines, and that means offloading some of the network traffic onto a DSL or fiber backhaul network makes sense. The Moto version is CDMA, meaning it will work with Verizon (a VZ) and Sprint’s current 3G networks in the U.S. Other players offering CDMA femotcells are Airvana (which provides the silicon for the Motorola femtoframe) and Samsung.
- Design: Last year saw more folks complaining about their ugly routers; now, apparently, the consumer electronics industry is finally taking a page from Apple and trying to gussy up our gadgets. Turning a femotcell into a digital picture frame is one way of making an ugly black box with lots of blinking lights into a slightly less ugly black box that also shows pictures. As devices migrate out of home offices and into the living room near our aesthetically pleasing flat screen TVs, they’d better look better.
- User Generated Feedback Goes Beyond the Web: Sure, the web has plenty of ways for users to customize their experiences and offer feedback, but in the coming year, businesses are going to be looking even deeper. In a talk at our NewTeeVee Live event, David Verklin of Canoe Ventures detailed how service providers will use interactive IP communications to make advertising more relevant for consumers, and more lucrative for service providers. With the Motorola frame, a user can voluntarily offer details about their home (such as the number of windows, building material, etc.) to the service provider to help optimize coverage — a less invasive use of interactivity that can still benefit businesses.
Motorola wasn’t able to tell me how much this device will go for or even how much it might cost to make, but Rob Malnati, a senior manager at Motorola, said it would likely be offered through the carriers as part of the current subsidized model for consumer premise equipment. It will be available for trials in the first part of this year. I can’t see Verizon or Sprint choosing to offer something like this if it costs a lot more for them. On the other hand, I might pay a slight premium for one less box of blinking lights on my desktop.