Sprint Still Looking To Connected Devices For A Boost

from the where-are-the-products? dept

For quite some time, mobile operators have been talking about how they want to get mobile connections in all sorts of consumer electronics as a way to grow their businesses. For instance, Verizon Wireless got a ton of press in November 2007 when it announced it was "opening" its network -- but the pledge hasn't yet really delivered much in the way of new devices or services. The Amazon Kindle remains about the only moderately successful example of the concept in practice, though there have been a few other products. The WSJ is reporting, though, that Sprint is still looking towards connected devices as a big part of its future growth. The Kindle's data connection, supplied by Sprint's EV-DO network, works well both technically and in terms of its business model, which is invisible to the end user, so Sprint should have a decent idea of how the system can work. But if this market is really as promising as the operators have been saying for a few years now, it's time to get some more devices available to consumers.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 1:10am

    Is Sprint looking for Game Changing Technology or "Me Too"?

    In the provided link Ford is also named as a wholesale partner with Sprint. Like Kindle, Sprint will provide services to data-ready systems on Ford vehicles.

    Quite possibly, this is to facilitate last-mile data to incorporate traffic conditions to avoid road blocks, and add more value to onboard GPS data and maps. However, this is nothing new. TomTom for example, has taken advantage of this since one of their first Core system releases, which ran on the Nokia Series 60 platform (circa 2001). Today, much of this functionality is replicated through the iPhone's included Google Maps application. Perhaps Sprint could benefit from a value-added location-based advertising appliance of some sort to offset ARPU, but even this looks like an uphill battle against Apple's iPhone. Adoption numbers would be a primary hurdle. Sprint would also have to address and overcome Apple's very engaged developer community.

    It's not insurmountable, but I just don't see how Sprint could drastically improve upon such a rich, and pre-existing technology platform. Apple played this very well.

     

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  2.  
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    Paul Brinker, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 2:39am

    Actully I think sprint has the right idea, all it takes is for one killer app that uses the sprint back bone to make them huge amounts of money as a carrier of information.

    For instance some news papers are looking at using the kindle as a replacement for there paper product, just think of how many people get the paper in a city like San Fransisco. Now replace each subscription with a Kindle paid for by the paper and given to the reader with a 2 year contract and you could see how well sprint would do as long as the bandwith charges dont drive the paper out of business.

     

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  3.  
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    some old guy, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    Re:

    How the hell is the paper going to raise 350$ for each subscriber?

    The kindle is WAY TOO EXPENSIVE for this kind of deal.

    Even if it were only 50$ it would be very difficult to accomplish. Hell, cable boxes only cost around 30-40$ and look how much the cableco's gouge you to rent/buy one.

    And far more people have computers with web access than that which already (or will, ever) have kindles.

     

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  4.  
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    Anthony, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    How about this. They should create a device wiht a low cost darta connection for the copier and other meter driven appliances. Vendors always have trouble getting the right meter reads from copies even if they are connected to the network becuase some firewalls block traffic like that. The device could upload meter information at regular intervals to the vendor who in turns bills them.

     

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  5.  
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    Haywood, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    I can think of a couple of killer apps

    But they only work for rural folks.

     

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  6.  
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    Weird Harold, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 6:20am

    Kindle is one more generation (and about $200) away from being entirely relevant. In a world where paper is expensive and digital delivery is possible, reading your morning paper on the subway from a kindle instead of a bunch of paper is probably a good thing.

    Oh yeah, they will also need a valid sustainable business model, which is something that is sorely lacking in almost every digital delivery system out there.

     

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  7.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    cost

    I think they're moving in the right direction, or at least more so than other operators. I think the key to success here, though, will be getting the cost way down. Even $10/mo is too much.

    They need to get it to the point where all a manufacturer needs to do is add a $3 chip to their device and the consumer can include service in an existing cell plan for $5/mo that would cover all such gadgets. This would perhaps need to exclude voice and limit data connections to a specific, well controlled data channel to avoid destroying network performance, at least at first. If you don't have Sprint cell service, charge no more than $10/mo for just that gadget.

    But ultimately that would enable a lot of different devices, to the point that there would be at least one device that nearly everyone wants and can afford. And since the best deal is tied to Sprint's cellular service this could be a big drive for them towards pushing that product.

     

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  8.  
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    DCX2, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Re: Is Sprint looking for Game Changing Technology or "Me Too"?

    Android might help address some of the issues you raise.

     

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  9.  
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    Pixelpusher220, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Or use what they already have....

    I have a Sprint Treo 700p. By no means am I a power user, but I pay for the unlimited data plan for surfing and its related connectivity.

    What I *despise* is not being able to use it as a laptop modem. We already have all the tech needed to connect *any* device to *any* phone. It's called Bluetooth.

    Sprint prevents me from doing this, only because they want to 'resell' the unlimited bandwidth to me again in the form of another $40/month (or whatever it is) plan.

    Take your device, provide connectivity for a fee (once!), and let the third party apps flock to your service. Multiple apps using Sprint and all of a sudden you're churn rate starts going down down down as people don't want the hassle of switching things.

    A lot like filesharing, share the connectivity and make money on the underlying service.

     

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  10.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Re: Is Sprint looking for Game Changing Technology or "Me Too"?

    Guys, we're talking about embedded radios in non-phone devices. Saying Apple has a phone with connected data services and a big developer community is irrelevant. We're talking oranges, you're talking apples.

     

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  11.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Mar 25th, 2009 @ 11:06am

    Not Just About Consumers

    Carlo,

    Right. Kinda. It's not just about consumers. This is the second time you've posted and mentioned Verizon's failure to get devices on its "open" network, but neglected to look into enterprise devices. There actually are some examples where government and enterprises have used the "open" network to connect devices to increase efficiency or cut costs.

    The Kindle is the most visible success story, with service provided by Sprint (and interestingly Qualcomm, too). But I agree with Sprint and the WSJ that we are at a tipping point where soon we will see many more enterprise AND consumer electronics devices with embedded cellular modems.

    The wireless data service will either be bundled with the original price of the device, or with some ongoing value (like the Kindle's books). The carrier, ex: Sprint, could be invisible to the customer or not. Devices will include, but not be limited to: cars, GPS devices, readers, kiosks, vending, meters, cameras, music players, streaming media devices, public transport, gameboy, PSP, DS, tracking devices, security cameras, wristwatches, glasses w/ TV screens, health sensors/monitors, Personal Mobile Gateways (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth). AT&T has an e-mail only mobile device that doesn't even do voice. The range of possible devices is wide and growing.

    And let's not forget the product that will be the biggest driver for embedded cellular modems: Netbooks and laptops. With the Netbook juggernaut driving scale up and costs down, the tipping point gets crossed this year.

    One of the inhibitors for this kind of embedded modem has been the carriers inability and lack of desire to offer any kind of service plan beyond the $60-$80 monthly data card fee. But with Sprint pushing (via WiMAX and Kindle) a new kind of wholesale thinking, the other carriers are responding. EU carriers are already offering a variety of service plans, bundling service with free Netbooks, including tiered data packages, and even a day plan priced like a WiFi hotspot, but covering a whole country. US service plans and billing infrastructure are now ready to make the change to more flexible models.

    On the topic, if any of you are going to the CTIA show next week, I am moderating a high-level panel on just this topic on April 1 at 3:30.
    http://www.ctiawireless.com/attendees/educational_sessions.cfm?calID=820

    The panel will have such key participants as the top devices guy at AT&T, the Amazon VP in charge of the Kindle and more. Come on out and introduce yourselves.

     

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  12.  
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    Freedom, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    Re: cost

    Ultimately the cost will drive this. There are tons of applications already that just need a low-cost data connectivity option to be useful.

    Unfortunately, I think in the $1/$2 per month option will really make this market, but I'm sure Sprint is looking for something like $10 or more per month per device which only works for a much smaller subset of devices especially when you consider that the service costs need to be marked up by the device manufacturer/reseller for most of these types of solutions.

    Freedom

     

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