Predictions for CTIA Wireless 2008

With CTIA just around the corner, it seems a good opportunity to muse on what we may see at the show. This year, I expect some of the big names to use CTIA as a launch pad to step up their activities in the US.

Nokia needs to show more commitment to the US market at this year’s event. In 2007, the Finnish giant had an enormous stand, but failed to announce any news, launch any products or drum up support from senior executives. This year, everyone at Nokia has repeatedly said that it plans to try harder in North America. It’s still not clear what this means in terms of phones, but I’d be very surprised if we don’t see several of Nokia’s flagship devices being promoted heavily, especially as they now support multiband W-CDMA. On the CDMA front, we’ll be watching closely how Nokia progresses with its new strategy of delivering products through deals with ODM firms.

Sony Ericsson used CTIA in 2007 to reveal its aspirations in the US market. It’s done quite well with AT&T, but there is still a lot of work to do. I think the new CEO, Dick Komiyama, is taking a strong interest in the North America market, given his links with the territory when working in various roles for Sony.

Both Nokia and Sony Ericsson will be hoping they can take advantage of Motorola’s woes to increase their share of a highly competitive market. Motorola announced no major new products at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, so it may reveal new phones at CTIA, hoping to rebuild confidence after the wide-ranging management changes in recent weeks. I’ve seen some unreleased models in a video leaked onto YouTube recently, and wonder whether Motorola will officially announce them at CTIA. If it does, my first question would be “When will they ship?” The phones announced at Mobile World Congress in February (Rokr E8 and Z10) still don’t appear to be available, leaving Motorola with a distinct lack of high-end products in its portfolio.

Korean vendors LG and Samsung are likely to echo their approach in 2007 with a wide array of products that try to meet the needs of operators. I expect LG will promote its fashion- and design-led phones and build on the success of the Chocolate, Shine, Venus, Viewty and Prada devices. I also think we’ll see more LG phones with touch screens. Samsung will probably follow the strategy we saw at Mobile World Congress, and showcase phones that it categorizes into six groups: basic, connected, multimedia, infotainment, style and business. It’ll customise these phones for the leading mobile network operators in the US.

I predict all the major Web brands will feature prominently at the show, echoing their presence at Mobile World Congress. Some of them will have their own booths, but most will be exhibiting through partnerships with device manufacturers and network operators.

I don’t know whether Google will provide more concrete information on its plans for Android and whether commercial products will be released. That said, I expect to see similar demos to those shown in Barcelona, with prototype devices and technology solutions on show from companies such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm (see here for our gallery of Android material from Mobile World Congress).