October 2, 2005 San Francisco Gizmag's Dave Weinstein visited the CTIA WIRELESS I.T. & Entertainment 2005 show in San Francisco this year to get a look at the new wireless devices that we'd be seeing in 2006. Overall, there were a few gadgets that we were really impressed by, but it wasn't the cornucopia of camera phones, super devices, and uber-gizmos that we'd hoped. Here's an overview of what we found.
HTC has pulled off a trifecta with a set of homerun products that run the Windows Mobile 2005 OS. The devices are the HTC Universal (branded under various names from i-mate, T-mobile, Vodaphone, O2, and others to come), the HTC Apache (which has just debuted as the SprintPCS PPC-6700), and the HTC Wizard (branded by Q-tek, i-mate, T-mobile and others). These devices all include landscape QWERTY keyboards (i.e. you turn the device sideways when you're using them), and are running Microsoft's newest phone OS. The flagship Universal device, even has a full 640x480 display, WiFi, bluetooth, and a decent battery life.
Palm has performed an act that just a year ago would have seemed all but impossible, they've created a version of their award winning Treo device that's running Microsoft's Mobile OS. Our casual observation around the convention center and at the events had us noticing that nearly all the techno-elite were using Treo 650s (their current flagship PalmOS smartphone), so we're fairly confident that this device will catch on quickly when it's released later this year as a product in the US running on Verizon Wireless' network.
Last, but not least is Motorola's Q phone. This elegant device uses the SmartPhone version of Microsoft's phone OS, and doesn't have a stylus or a touch screen. Instead, it's a sleek MS powered play that's targeted right at the heart of RIM's BlackBerry devices. After using it for a few minute the device struck us as nearly perfect for it's intended purpose. It was quick and responsive, with a durable screen, and usable thumb-keyboard. Oh, and did we mention elegant, if HTC's Universal is a bit to much for you to be carrying around, Motorola's got your number with their Q phone.
Notebook PCs big and small
OQO was out at CTIA in force, and showed the updated version of their ultra-portable PC, the Model 01a. The device has double the memory of it's predecessor, a larger hard drive, and updated USB and bluetooth. In actual use the device was quick and responsive, and was one of the most amazing displays of miniaturization that we've ever seen. But when push comes to shove we're still not sure what we'd use one of these amazing devices for. Fortunately, OQO has found a niche for the devices and is doing well selling them. We're excited about what we'll see in the future from OQO, they're definitely one of the cool companies to keep an eye on.
By contrast, Lenovo as rolled out a new line of ThinkPad notebooks (the Z series) that include an option for built in wireless 3G service from Verizon Wireless in the US. While they're not the only one's doing this (Dell has announced deals with both Cingular and Verizon, and HP has it's own deal with Verizon), we were most impressed by Lenovo's products. Look for a review of their Z60m notebook and it's 3G performance in the coming weeks.
Microsoft makes it move. Nearly every significant devices we saw had a Microsoft operating system, which really shows how serious the software giant is about winning in the mobile arena. Even the non-phone products that we saw has Microsoft's XP operating system, which is not exactly a shocker, they're nearly the only game in town for the desktop. But when it comes to phones and PDAs, there's a lot of competition from Palm and Symbian, and frankly we just didn't see the others stepping up to the plate like Microsoft has. Another thing we noticed is that non-networked PDAs have virtually vanished from everyone's product lines, and the devices that don't have 2.5G or 3G networking are even becoming rare. So the new SmartPhone devices we've seen here have become the PDAs of the near and foreseeable future. Although there wasn't an official category for MVP of CTIA, if there was, Microsoft would have quietly won it.