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CTIA exhibitors claim show floor traffic slow this year

ORLANDO, FL ? This year?s International CTIA has a load of attendees. However, many exhibitors and attendees claim that the show floor traffic is slow and that they miss Las Vegas.

Mobile Marketer reporters and editors walked the show floor and talked to exhibitors and attendees about how the conference is going this year.

"CTIA is a great show?the key pieces of what makes mobile work, the key players are all here," said Michael Becker, San Mateo, CA-based North America managing director of the Mobile Marketing Association. "It is a wonderful venue for having conversations about moving the ball forward and growing the industry.

"I?m sensing a bigger buzz at the show than in years past," he said. "I?m hearing people really talk about mobile marketing, moving away from one-off campaigns and ad hoc initiatives to ask, 'How do we establish a persistent presence in mobile?' whether it be SMS, the mobile Web, apps or what have you.

"The Mobile Marketing Association?s best-practice guidelines are designed to help marketers do just that?establish a persistent mobile presence."

In addition to Mr. Becker, Dan Butcher, associate editor at Mobile Marketer, interviewed the following conference attendees:

Randy Ahn, Santa Monica, CA-based senior vice president of strategic programs and partnerships at July Systems
Tablets have gotten everyone really excited at CTIA. I took a quick walk around the showroom floor, and the Samsung Galaxy area was flooded.

We have involvement with different verticals?enterprise, automotive, healthcare?heavy-hitters taking mobile seriously. They see how it is impacting their particular company and the industry as a whole. That is something fresh and new at CTIA this year.

As for AT&T/T-Mobile, anytime you?re talking about consolidation of carriers, there will be a huge impact. Instead of the big four, we?d have the big three.

Verizon would no longer be No. 1, and Sprint, which has been struggling, will have to have a reaction.

Whoever ends up in last place has to do something big, something drastic to get attention. It will be interesting to see how Sprint reacts. I?m curious to see what they come back with.

In terms of mobile marketing and commerce, the impact of the carriers has lessened with the rise of the app stores.

Who owns the subscriber? The carriers? Apple? Google? If Apple has my credit card info, I?m an Apple customer.

Brands don?t care about being placed on carrier decks anymore?they want to get featured placement in the App Store and Android Market.

Sean Rosenberg, New York-based U.S. managing director of Grapple Mobile
Mobile apps are the driving force behind devices, content and services, as made clear in the Tuesday keynotes. 

Dan Hesse, Sprint's CEO, pointed out how apps are in high demand with mobile subscribers, while Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, talked about how apps are creating new jobs despite the state of the U.S. economy.

Various panelists debated about what makes a good app and how established brands are continuing to increase investment in the space.

How does it compare to last year? 2011 is the year of the tablet device. Carriers are excited about consumer demand and adding another data device to their networks. 

The pressure is on to increase bandwidth and improve spectrum efficiencies. Last year was more of a transitional year with the industry preparing for 4G, smartphone dominance and competitors just beginning to catch up to Apple's innovative mobile ecosystem.

What does the coverage and focus say about the state of mobile marketing?

Convergence is happening every day and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Brands that take the time to segment their customers and design mobile use cases are winning. 

By testing new technologies early on, businesses can quickly gain the experience needed to piece together the right mobile vehicles to increase revenue. Location is key to defining a mobile experience which must go beyond a simple extension of a Web site.

Alex Hall, president of the Americas at TigerSpike, New York
We cover a lot of different verticals, if I?m talking to the carriers, I?m just hearing LTE all the time.

From a content and advertising standpoint, I think the word capacity is a concern. Smartphones and tablets are continuing to explode, but at some point. With the rich-media consumption world, the networks are going to hit capacity - they?re struggling, and is that something that we can address in the next 12 to 24 months?

I?ve been talking a lot about usability and trying to anticipate consumer behavior, with every new device that hits the market and is a game-changer, whether it is Apple or Google or someone else, it is subtly changing the way we interact with  other devices.

I was fairly amazed that I haven?t seen anything from the regulators on the AT&T/T-Mobile deal.

Operationally speaking, if anything, it will take some edge out of the industry to a point.

T-Mobile had the capacity to almost do anything it wanted strategically and tactically, in terms of pricing and handsets. If it comes under the AT&T banner, it could be more restricted in terms of being all things to all people, and it could detract from its marketing innovation.

Sandy Martin, Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based director of mobile initiatives for Mobitrove
In terms of the AT&T/T-Mobile news, I feel like the two together can probably meet consumer needs better, but there are probably some pricing issues that we need to be aware of, so I really hope that they strike the right balance.

Frank Sinton, CEO of Mefeedia, Burbank, CA
It seems like a great show.

The biggest impact was seeing NTT DoCoMo?s booth. It was a big empty space with a rose, asking people to text REDCROSS to 90999. It was the most powerful part of the show. That?s the thing I remember the most about today?unbelievable.

John Styers, vice president of corporate strategy and industry relations at 3Cinteractive, Boca Raton, FL
We?re at a level of maturity where the show is less about more new opportunities and finding the next greatest thing. It?s not about that, it?s about a great group of people coming together to be productive, knocking down the necessary meetings and expanding relationships.

We?re hitting a maturity point where there are other channels to find the new startups. Carriers have gone more open.

You have to have a more specific business development approach to acquire new clients.

James Citron, founder/CEO of Mogreet, Santa Monica, CA
This is the first year where mobile video is really moving the needle, with CTIA embracing sending video via MMS to its opted-in database.

Advertisers want to reach customers on the first screen, the mobile phone.

Things have changed in the industry in a very positive way. The best innovation across industries has migrated to mobile.

[Regarding the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition], my hope would be that the consolidation would drive continued innovation and consumer choice. Whether there are more players or fewer players, consumers must have choice, from the best range of handsets to the best data plan.

As a country we?ve always thrived on innovation, and the key is consumer adoption.

Emma Flannagan, product development at Digital Reach, Dublin, Ireland
It?s my first year at CTIA. It?s a great event for meeting people. The show has been a great place to show what we can do and meet potential clients and people that can be useful to us to expand in the market. It?s a great opportunity to show off our platform.

Ashley Bewick, business development manager of mobile messaging at Mach, Tampa, FL
It?s a little smaller than it has been in the past in Vegas. It?s a smaller venue. It?s more intimate, which is nice, because it?s easier to meet people. It?s a great networking event.

The most buzz has been around mobile content, apps and mobile billing.

Scott Blanksteen, CEO of AppStoreHQ, Seattle
The big news coming in was the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition that overshadowed the normal stuff.

The two big themes are tablets and apps.

There is a dedicated app zone and individual app developers exhibiting, which is a first. That part of the market is picking up as well.

My first impression of the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition was that wow, I don?t think that was going to be approved, but now I do think it will be approved.

As a consumer I would rather have three carriers that work rather than four that don?t.

Improving value isn?t necessarily lowering prices.

I would rather have a network that is 99 percent reliable than pay less for one that isn?t reliable.

AT&T should be able to make the case that it will be able to build a better network and offer better services.

Gary Schwartz, CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto
It?s all about understanding how digital, virtual and physical commerce are matrixed. It?s about demystifying the matrix and understanding different payment opportunities and the business models behind them.

That?s what we?re focusing on, overcoming option paralysis, and a lot of hype.

We?re helping people hone in on what?s good for their specific business needs ? not in the future, in the present.

Doug Robinson, chief strategy officer at Rush Hour Digital, New York
Apps are generating the most buzz at the show. The evolution of the app world is presenting so many opportunities for various vertical industries.

We?re seeing not only utility and value to the consumer, but the economic possibilities as well.

[Speaking of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal], on the one hand I?m disappointed at the removal of a competitor in terms of pricing, [but] I am enamored of the chutzpah of AT&T to execute the deal.

When you see how cheap data is going to become for consumers, broadband spectrum is a central issue for carriers.

Rimma Kats, staff reporter at Mobile Marketer, interviewed the following attendees:

Ran Farmer, Reston, VA-based managing director for North America at Netbiscuits
I think we?re just getting started. Looks like a very successful event already. We?re getting people asking advanced questions.

Topics generating buzz this year is HTML5. People are recognizing that the mobile Web is a huge part of the ecosystem.

Peter Clough, director of sales at appMobi, Lancaster, PA
Well, my first thoughts are that the strip is not as exciting as it is in Las Vegas.

Timothy Kay, chief technology officer at boopsie, Palo Alto, CA
The show is going great. We walked all the way to the back of the hall to see our booth and we?re getting great traffic.

We?re definitely excited this year. Mobile apps and mobile payments are definitely gaining momentum.

Neil Strother, mobile practice director at ABI Research, Kirkland, WA
There?s a lot of buzz around the energy and change that the AT&T and T-Mobile deal would make.

There?s an intrigue of what that would mean.

It seems like people are divided, but the question now is if it's going to get approved or now. There?s a general consensus, some say yes and some say no.

Michael Edget, vice president of marketing, Johns Creek, GA
It?s early, but it seems that the traffic has gone up since Vegas. It?s good.

Matthew Valleskey, director of marketing for mobile services at Neustar, Reston, VA
It just started, but it seems to be better then past years. There seems to be a lot of traffic.

Janelle Lewis, marketing manager of mobile services at Sybase
The show?s huge. There are so many exhibitors ? there?s so much to see. A lot of the bigger companies have stepped up their presence.

Shahzia Banth, marketing manager at Sybase
I feel like the show is not that busy, but I haven?t had a chance to walk around.

Jose Diaz, account executive at OpenMarket, New York
Vegas was a lot more fun, but his location is great. There are a lot more people who are more educated now.

Now, it?s about figuring out how we go about implementing further. There?s also a lot more interest with mobile payments and NFC.

Eric Boduch, CEO of Smash, Pittsburgh, PA
It?s hard to tell right now, but the foot traffic has been slower. It?s still too early to say.

Paul Cegielski, director of marketing for mBlox, Sunnyvale, CA
We?ve had a good and steady flow of people. It?s a much bigger show than last year.

Nader Nejat, CEO of Omega Mobile, Emeryville, CA
Traffic seems slow.

Eric Harber, president/CEO of Hipcricket, Seattle
What most expected to be an evolutionary show after the Consumer Electronics Show and Mobile World Congress turned revolutionary Sunday with AT&T?s announcement.

It has led most discussions purely from a ?What do you think?? and ?Did you see it coming?? perspective.

Of course, whether the deal gets approved remains to be seen. Otherwise, there is palpable momentum in mobile as evidenced by the number of people in Orlando, the great results for brands and media companies that companies like Hipcricket and others are sharing, and the introduction of more impactful products.

Nothing we?ve seen, however, is on the scale of the introduction of a new category like tablets.

With the AT&T announcement, most people are talking about the proposed deals.

Interestingly, those who aren?t are the players involved ? it?s noticeable how few people from AT&T and T-Mobile USA are on-site in Orlando.