By the end of the third day at 4G World, it became apparent that there were some recurring themes being expressed in many of the summits and discussions. The “Next-Gen 4G Devices” superpanel — hosted by the Yankee Group’s Gigi Wang and featuring Alan Panezic of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion, as well as Ira Gorelick from Verizon Wireless — involved a lot of talk similar to the NFC Summit held earlier that day, only in reference to the adoption of 4G rather than NFC.
“The tipping point for driving the adoption of 4G is going to be you, and whether you can use the applications in front of you,” said Gorelick. “I can’t imagine what the apps will be like 20 years from now, but I know the apps will drive 4G.”
He stressed that video-based apps in particular would help increase the popularity of 4G technology. “We are a graphical society. People will adapt to visual graphics better,” he said. “That’s what’s going to drive the demand for more bandwidth and shorter latencies.”
Remarks from RIM’s Panezic
Panezic from RIM took a slightly more abstract route, one that was more in line with what seemed like the aforementioned themes of the weekend. “A compelling user experience is what drives someone to get a 4G device,” he said. “As an industry, when we solve a compelling set of challenges the user had and we wrap it up in a simple package and price it in a compelling way, magic happens.
“When you solve a key problem in a simple way, that’s a compelling thing. That’s what killer apps are: those magical experiences,” he said, using the exact term that Google’s Osama Bedier had used earlier that day in reference to the uses of NFC.
Verizon’s Gorelick Takes the Podium
Gorelick also expressed the same sentiments, suggesting that what mattered most to consumers were those “magical experiences,” regardless of how they come about. “From a user standpoint, they don’t know 3G from 4G,” he said. “It’s like miles per gallon. You know you want better mpg but you don’t care how it works. All end users care about is whether or not this technology is going to support what they want to do.” He added that people want their mobile experience to be like a desktop experience and that “4G can deliver that.”
But unlike the bleak outlook that some of the speakers had for NFC in the event that it isn’t applied properly, RIM’s Panezic maintained that 4G was a technology that simply could not fail. “I don’t see the industry getting it fundamentally wrong,” he said. He used the example of the young generation that is currently entering the work force. “We’ve got young people in this industry, these digital natives, saying, ‘We know how this should work.’ They have this fundamental grounding in the technology that [the previous generation] never will.
“It’s a demographic shift and it will never go back,” he said.
Panezic’s faith in 4G’s success went as far as him saying that it would benefit the very company he works for. When asked whether or not 4G is going to help RIM and BlackBerry against iOS and Android, he said, “Absolutely. The range of customer problems you can solve with the great bandwidth of 4G…well, you can start to solve an entirely different class of problems.” It’s like Wi-Fi without the thinking, he added, because ostensibly, it works everywhere. “When I have that kind of coverage and connectivity, the range of things I’m going to want to try to do will grow rapidly.”
Another point continually emphasized by Panezic and Gorelick was how important open development and APIs are to the growth of 4G.
“I couldn’t agree more with the idea of having open APIs,” said Panezic. “We want to make it easy to create high productivity, beautiful apps on any platform quickly. That’s why [RIM] is making commitments to Webkit, HTML 5, etc. It helps developers realize that there’s money to be made here.” He once again echoed the views of Bedier, stressing the importance of working together to help drive adoption.
“The rising tide will lift all boats,” he said. “Otherwise what you end up with are these gaps and divides because everyone has different development languages.”
While Gorelick was in agreement, he was a little more cautious about so readily embracing an open development process. “My job is twofold: I need to bring as many devices as I can onto the network, and I need to protect the network. To the extent that I can be open and protect the network, I will be open.”
“A single device can bring down a cell site,” he said. “We want an open environment, but we want to be able to protect the quality of Verizon’s network.”
But if the safety and quality of Verizon’s network is considered priority number one, Gorelick sure made it sound like an open development process was a close second. “We at Verizon will deliver the bandwidth, you just need to deliver the peripheral stuff and we want to work with all of you to make that happen,” he said.
“We need the open development and I think y’all can take advantage of it.”