From CTIA: light at the end of the walled garden

11 September 2008 by Steve Blum
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Spoke with Sean O’Leary, biz dev VP at TapRoot Systems at the CTIA show in San Francisco. They’re launching an application called WalkingHotSpot. If your handset has WiFi capability (and if they support your handset) it will allow you to run your cellular radio and your WiFi radio at the same time, and pass data between the two.

It’s a logical, and potentially disruptive, extension of the mobile phone concept: your broadband connection is tied to your body, not your home or office or car. And your mobile network operator doesn’t have to be your gateway for services and content.

Suppose someone finally comes out with a viable slate computer. Something a little bigger than an iPod Touch, with a screen big enough to both see some detail and write without cramping your fingers. Wouldn’t fit in a shirt pocket, but it would rest easy in a coat pocket or purse or bike jersey.

Today, if you wanted this slate to be truly mobile, you’d have to buy it from your network operator and use it (and pay for it) according to their policies. Or switch operators because yours doesn’t offer it. It’s like having to buy your computer from AT&T because only their stuff runs on their DSL service.

With WalkingHotSpot, or similar apps, you just clip your broadband spigot, formerly known as your mobile phone, to your belt in the morning (OK, you might need to hang a couple of extra batteries there too…). Then you use your mythical slate computer or iPod Touch or Android gizmo all day long, except when you’re talking on your VOIP ear bud or when you’re driving your car. Which updates the navigation system and streams TV to the back seat via your belt spigot.

The walled garden business model that sustains the mobile phone industry is powerful, but it doesn’t have to last forever.