Weekly Wrap: When It Rains, It Pours
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 07 09:00:00 GMT 2003

Lots of news this week as Sony previews the PSP, Microsoft's mobile boss quits, the latest handset sales figures are out, and more...


As criticism of the N-Gage continues to pile up, Sony showed off a preview of their forthcoming PSP portable gaming device this week. The PSP has some very impressive specs, and Sony says it won't be a single deck, but rather a platform of connected devices allowing for the easy addition or subtraction of functionalities. The company did say, however, the PSP will have Wi-Fi, and they will at some point add mobile-phone functionality. Sony also said it would release a product to rival Apple's iPod priced at $60 -- but it will be interesting to see if they can deliver on that promise, and if they can keep the powerful PSP's price within a reasonable range.

Microsoft announced this week that the head of its mobile unit, Juha Christensen would leave the company next month. Christensen, which joined the Seattle behemoth from arch-rival Symbian, is starting a company to work on mobile Web services -- which Microsoft recently said it would work with Vodafone to push forward. Christensen joined the company four years ago and took its fledgling mobile unit and turned it into a player in the mobile telecom world. It will be interesting to see who will replace him in this key role.

There was a slew of news on the Microsoft smartphone front this month, as US carrier Verizon leaked details of the long-awaited Samsung i600 CDMA smartphone, and OEM Compal promised a new clamshell model with an integrated camera. But stealing the thunder was Taiwanese manufacturer Mitac, which said it expects to release 10 Microsoft-powere phones next year.

IDC dropped the first set of third-quarter handset sales figures this week, and they bode well for the industry, showing 21% year-over-year and 14% sequential total growth. Nokia lost a point of market share from the previous quarter, down to 35%, while Motorola came second with 15.5%, followed by Samsung at 11.6%, Siemens at 8.7%, and with LG rounding out the top five with 5.8%, edging out Sony Ericsson at 5.5%.

As the camera phone "revolution" continues to gather steam, more hints of a backlash emerged this week when it came out some companies were working with US carriers to deliver handsets with their cameras either disabled or removed. The moves surprised carriers, which naturally assumed that high-end handsets would have to include cameras. Carriers Verizon and Sprint said they were working with Samsung and Handspring, respectively, on these hobbled devices.

In other news, BT jumped back into the wireless game by launching an MVNO, and also said they were testing an interesting Bluetooth-based system that uses VOIP when it's in range of a hotspot and the GSM network when it isn't. Opera scored another win this week when BenQ said it would use the company's browser on its forthcoming Symbian/UIQ handset, and the possibility of CDMA2000 gaining a foothold in Europe emerged.

Elsewhere on the site, Justin Hall talks about his struggles in getting mobile-phone service in South Korea and shares some mobile-related images from his visit there, Steve Wallage surmises the impact of wireless number portability, and Mark Frauenfelder takes a gander at a "smart dust" network being used to track some waterfowl in Maine.