I recently attended the CTIA 2014 “Super Mobility Week”, a week-long technology conference in Las Vegas which hosted thousands of mobile professionals and executives, 1,100+ exhibitors, as well as 1,000+ media and analysts from across the globe.
In recent years, both CES and MWC have developed into high profile showcases for the technology industry, and consequently it has become difficult for CTIA to justify the value of the exhibition side of its event. Recognizing the importance of convergence technologies and in an attempt to compete, this year’s event partnered with smaller independent IT and telecom conferences, and wrapped them around the CTIA exhibition to attract greater attention from the industry – and it seemed to work!
What interested me in particular about this year’s conference was that, during the keynote speeches on the second day, time was allocated for beaming Apple’s live announcements directly from Cupertino, California. During this streamed video, there were four highly respected analysts on stage interpreting what these announcements meant for the industry; they included wireless industry expert, Chetan Sharma, and columnist and commentator, Shelly Palmer.
The much anticipated introduction of the new iPhone 6 brought no surprises: the screen size had been increased, its battery technology had been improved and the device now included NFC. Following these announcements, comments from the analysts on stage were reiterated by a series of ad’s from Samsung and comments in the press, all concurring that none of this was new technology.
With the introduction of its new smart watch, however, Apple demonstrated how it has incorporated fashion and luxury as a key part of its strategy going forward. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes and three different styles, and with changeable straps. More significant was Apple’s user interface design rethink utilizing the traditional watch crown, along with touch to control the screen and displays; the intent is to encourage users to really embrace and engage with this new device. Some from the watch industry have dubbed this a “beginner’s step” but nonetheless Apple seems intent to move the bar. If they succeed, the army of developers and the size of early majority users that are Apple fans could result in this becoming the catalyst for change in the smart watch space.
The introduction of the Apple Pay system aroused much attention at the conference and even seemed to trump the excitement over Apple Watch: the utilization of a thumb print, combined with Near Field Communication technology to verify purchases, provides a slick simplification of the payment process. Another interesting and simple mechanism introduced was the ability to add a credit card to your existing iTunes account. You simply take a photograph of the credit card, and the cloud reads the details from the card and verifies these with your bank, then syncs this with your phone and your iTunes ID account. The whole emphasis is on simplifying the payment process. What was also extremely impressive was the fact that Apple has 220,000 outlets signed up for this already, and that AMEX, Visa and MasterCard are all supporting the process, along with major banks, including Citibank. Supporting retailers include Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Walgreens, Whole Food, Subway and, of course, Apple retail.
The conclusion I came away with from CTIA 2014 was that, while Samsung may be the technology leader in the device space, Apple, with the introduction of Apple Watch and Apple Pay, is continuing to foster business model and value chain transformation. This legacy capability, as demonstrated by Steve Jobs with the introduction of iTunes that subsequently blew up the music industry, appears not to have been lost with his passing, but is seemingly being diligently pursued by the current Apple management team.
Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global