What Was Missing in ‘Jamlando’?

I was in Orlando, Fla., last week for the CTIA Wireless show and there was a lot to see. Ad-supported text messaging and uploading camera phones were the tops on my list. Unfortunately mobile search wasn’t. But I’ll get to that in a bit. First I’ve got a question.

What’s the most spectacularly innovative mobile device to come out so far in 2007? Easy, right? Apple’s new do-everything iPhone, of course.

It’s thin
and sleek with its touch screen interface. You can pinch the screen
to zoom, and brush it to send a window scrolling. It plays video and
music and even runs Mac OS X and real Web browser, Safari. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled. Oh and it’s a phone, too.

So what did I think after seeing it at CTIA, the “most
important global technology event of the year”? Nothing. Why? Because there weren’t any.

OK, so that’s an exaggeration. There was one iPhone at CTIA. AT&T chief
operating officer Randall L. Stephenson held one up during his
keynote on Tuesday.

He could hardly contain his excitement.

“First time I’ve ever seen one of these before!” said the C-level
exec from AT&T/Cingular, the exclusive service provider for Apple’s
hot product.

Mobile searching steak

I also looked forward to seeing the vast improvements in the mobile search industry. I sat with people from Yahoo and Microsoft and took my
own test drive on Google’s display devices. As a traveler in a faraway
land, I wanted to know where I could find a good steak near my hotel.

I thumbed my way through each demonstration, setting my location as
Orlando and searching on “steak” and “steak restaurants.”

I got hungrier with each listing I watched pop up, confident that Charley’s Steakhouse, my favorite, was moments away. Especially since the hotel’s concierge told me there was one near the hotel. But it didn’t show up in either of my mobile Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft searches in Orlando. I even searched on what the local DJs call the city: “Jamlando.” But no go.

Of the search companies I tested, Microsoft’s will work best for business travelers in faraway lands, because after they search for their hotels, they can set its address as the starting location for subsequent searches.

But mostly, I’m waiting for the mobile broadband that FCC Chairman Kevin
J. Martin promised during Tuesday’s keynote.

Enough with the low-lights

Thanks to smaller players Anam Mobile and Avanquest Software, I
did see something cool.

David Wright, president of Avanquest’s OEM division, demonstrated
software that his firm is white-labeling for service providers that allow
consumers to set their camera-phones to automatically upload their
photos just after taking them. I wanted to know why Facebook hasn’t
contacted Avanquest yet.

Glen Murray, vice president of sales and marketing with an Irish company called Anam Mobile, demonstrated
ad-supported text messaging for me. Through an Anam partner, Amobee,
its product inserts text ads into SMS messages. Murray said the ads
will help service providers keep earning money on SMS, as competition
drives how much they can charge consumers for each message lower and

My hope is that AT&T-Cingular will get on board with Anam by the time
that iPhone hits the market so I can access text with touch all day long for
free. And maybe I’ll get that steak, after all.

And so from the kingdom they call Magical and before things get too
Jamlando, I’m out.

Nicholas Carlson is senior associate editor for internetnews.com.

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