Smartphones Take Center Stage

Conference highlights advances like Wi-Fi and Mobile VoIP. What about the phone as PC?
Posted September 27, 2005

David Needle

SAN FRANCISO -- ''We won't all be using smartphones in 10 years.''

That may have been the most sobering comment at the one-day Smartphone Summit conference here Monday.

The gathering of communications and mobile device executives and developers featured positive comments and analysis of the current and future state of so-called smartphones. Ironically, though, there was no clear agreement on just what a smartphone is.

''We have between 56 and 85 percent global market share depending on what you say is a smartphone,'' said Jerry Panagrossi, vice president of U.S. operations for Symbian, the leading provider of operating system software for cell phones.

Still a panel of industry executives that included Panagrossi agreed whatever the definition, smartphones today make up about 10 percent of the cell phone market worldwide, and the percentage will increase significantly in the next five to 10 years.

The broadest definition of a smartphone came from HP.

''Smartphones are computers you talk to,'' said Rick Roesler, vice president of handhelds for HP, in a separate presentation.

But while HP looks to eventually morph its iPAQ PDA into a smartphone, most of the vendors at the conference had a more phone-centric take on where phones are headed.

''The keyboard or keypad represents a fundamental bottleneck on input,'' said Rick Geruson, CEO of Voice Signal, which makes embedded voice recognition software already in some 45 million cell phones. The company's V Suite software enables voice activated menus for common tasks like accessing a Microsoft Outlook directory and speaking a command like ''Dick Cheney at home'' to call Mr. Cheney should he happen to be among your contacts.

HP's Roesler sees corporate users wanting to do more than what voice can offer. He predicted mobile users will be able to connect smartphones and devices like the iPAQ to wired or wireless docking stations, with a keyboard, mouse and other peripherals giving the user ready access to the equivalent of a desktop computer. ''And it's only a matter of time before services and content for phones is indistinguishable from what's available for PCs,'' he added.

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