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The Show Must Go On: What To Expect At CTIA Enterprise This Week

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The wireless industry’s fall gathering–CTIA Enterprise and Apps–will open Monday with an industry in mourning over the death of a man who didn’t quite care for such events but who had a profound impact on every major company planning to attend. Still, life must go on, and after a surprise cancelation by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Samsung expect attention to focus on Sprint’s fight for survival and the ongoing saga of AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile.

What was expected to be the highlight of the week–Google and Samsung’s introduction of the most advanced Android phone to date–was canceled on Friday out of what the companies said was respect for Steve Jobs and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), with company representatives saying the decision was made at the highest levels of each organization and has nothing to do with any product delays. It’s a lost opportunity for Google and Samsung to introduce both the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android and the Nexus Prime, believed to be the next “pure Google” Android phone, following the introduction of the iPhone 4S a day before Jobs’ death.

That doesn’t mean we’ll be left twiddling our thumbs, however. The fall edition of the CTIA show generally focuses on how businesses are embracing mobile technology, and how mobile software development tools and techniques are evolving. Here’s a sense of what we expect:

Carrier Fireworks: It probably won’t be as dramatic as the time they took the stage in March just days after AT&T’s bombshell announcement that it intended to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion, but the leaders of three of the top four wireless carriers in the U.S.–AT&T’s Ralph De La Vega, Verizon’s Dan Mead, and Sprint’s Dan Hesse–will once meet in a roundtable discussion on Tuesday. Unfortunately the panel is being moderated by CTIA head Steve Largent, which means it will be a rehearsed affair unlikely to be as interesting as it was in March when Jim Cramer of CNBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) did his usual thing.

Still, Hesse is likely to work in a reference to why the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is a bad idea every second sentence. De La Vega will explain why the merger will create jobs, save kittens, and eliminate the designated hitter. Hesse will also have to defend his company’s new 4G strategy, which has changed quite a bit since the same three leaders appeared at CTIA in March. And Mead is likely to chuckle at all the fuss as Verizon sits back and prepares for its next move once the chaos surrounding its competitors settles down.

All three men now run companies that carry Apple’s iPhone 4S, and they will probably be asked to reflect on the death of Jobs and what I’m sure were interesting negotiations between the companies over the years. AT&T (NYSE: T) announced late Friday that they received 200,000 iPhone 4S pre-orders in the first 12 hours the device was on sale, showing just how dependent the wireless industry is on perhaps Jobs’ finest creation.

Android No-Show?: The decision to cancel Samsung and Google’s press conference scheduled for Tuesday was quite strange: very few people would have thought it crass to continue with a press conference scheduled well before Jobs’ death and nearly a full week later. It’s really hard to imagine Jobs reaching the same conclusion were he to have an important public event on his calendar in the week following the death of a similar industry titan.

Assuming Google and Samsung are telling the truth about the launch schedule for the Nexus Prime (neither company has confirmed the name, but Samsung’s statement Friday spoke of “a new product”), it’s hard to criticize those executives too much for trying to show respect for an industry legend. Still, they’ll now have to unveil Ice Cream Sandwich at a different event that will allow Apple to have one of its trademark product-launch weeks (especially likely to have the usual lines now) all to itself.

Business Time: The “consumerization of IT” is a popular catchphrase in tech right now, mainly because it’s accurate. Workers are demanding that their tools live up to the same standards that their consumer electronics devices must achieve, with easier-to-understand interfaces and mobile access as a given. Entire new classes of devices like tablets are further changing the way that companies think about how they use technology to advance their core business.

I’ll be talking to more representatives of the mobile payments industry and those who are keen on building out what Rob Bailey of SimpleGeo called “point-of-sale 2.0” types of experiences at retailers over dinner a few weeks back. Mobile video is also expected to be discussed in depth during two of the three keynote sessions featuring companies like Polycom and Tango.