CTIA: The Trailer

I’m getting ready to hit Sin City for next week’s CTIA Wireless show, from April 1-3, so for those of you not planning to attend — or who will attend but plan to gamble away your expense money — here’s your cheat sheet for the show.

Sure, everyone will be hoping for an announcement about the $3 billion Sprint/Cable/Clearwire joint venture that Om has dubbed the U.S. Rescue WiMax Act, and pondering both the valuation of and chances for Motorola’s handset business, but there will be a few trends to keep an eye out for as well.

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Google’s White Space Proposal

Google has issued to the FCC its plan for what it would like to do with the airwaves freed up by the upcoming conversion from analog to digital television, and it’s pretty optimistic. You may recall the 700 MHz auction that decided the fate of licensed spectrum and raised $19.59 billion for federal coffers, but there’s the matter of what to do with the space between the digital TV channels known as white space.

Google, Microsoft, Intel other technology players would like to see an open wireless broadband service, and today the search giant outlined its plans to make this possible. The plan’s essentials include a vision of portable and fixed broadband devices with Android offering a low-cost operating system for such devices. In addition to working in the white spaces, the devices should also work on the “open access” 700MHz spectrum that Verizon purchased. Because building network equipment is a challenge, Google plans to help out third-party device makers at no cost. Read More about Google’s White Space Proposal

For Freescale, It’s Beyer to the Rescue

When Freescale Semiconductor named Richard Beyer as CEO on Wednesday, many of my friends at the company felt the faint stirrings of hope. Freescale, which was spun off from Motorola in December 2004, is a kind of wallflower in the chip world.

It has some good products, but it also has some real problems that need solving before it can live up to the expectations set by its $17.6 billion buyout in September 2006. The buyout left Freescale saddled with $9.5 billion in debt. That’s a lot for a company that reported sales of $5.72 billion last year, down from $6.36 billion in 2006.

Freescale has three big problems. The first is that about a quarter of its sales come from its former parent, which is having a tough time all its own. The second is that it’s in so many markets — some of which are growing — while Freescale is standing still. The third and final problem lies in the fact that former CEO Michel Mayer was not the kind of leader needed to take a newly independent company down its own road.

Beyer may solve the third problem if he can step into his job in mid-March, listen to managers and figure out a strategy (likely involving a push to analog) that gets Freescale growing in step (or even ahead of) the markets it dominates.

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MWC: Mobile OS Scorecard

It’s not as fun as counting delegates from Super Tuesday, and figuring out which mobile operating system is pulling ahead can be complex, but we’re on it. And while we’re not tallying intangibles such as the “cool” factor of the phone, and have no idea how well each will sell, we are tracking which operating system is being used on the 28 (by our unscientific count) new handsets that have launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. We still have three more days, so stay tuned. Read More about MWC: Mobile OS Scorecard

NoMo Moto? Is Motorola’s Cell-Phone Business Worth Buying?

Motorola said today it’s exploring strategic options that include selling its handset business. The news comes on the heels of the company announcing a terrible fourth quarter, thanks to continued weakness in the handset business.

razrburn.gifAny buyer should look carefully at Motorola’s handset business. By putting it up for sale, Motorola is admitting that the handset division is operationally weak, and to some extent, beyond redemption.

The overreliance on RAZR, and later its inability to get out of the rut of producing phones that never became “hits,” proves that the bureaucratic poundage was weighing the company down. Even if it was operationally sound, the company would need some vision to get back on track and fight it out with the likes of Nokia, Samsung, LG and newcomers likes Apple.

It is a hard fall for a once-proud company, which along with Nokia and Ericsson made up the triumvirate that controlled the wireless business with an iron fist. In order to understand how badly Motorola has stumbled, compare its daily sales of roughly 454,000 with Nokia’s daily sales of 1.3 million.

Recently, companies like Alcatel and Siemens have sold off their handset businesses to Asian handset makers. Those deals didn’t work out too well for the buyers, though. Buyers beware.