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The CTIA show opportunity

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has announced that, beginning in 2014, it will combine its two annual trade shows to a single “super show”. The move, prompted by direct competition with Mobile World Congress (MWC) and, less so, by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES, which had a big wireless news year in 2010 but not as much since) is long overdue. I stopped going to the schizophrenic “enterprise and apps” fall show a few years back and last year was looking like my last one for the spring show. Similar to E3, the CTIA show stands to suffer if a few key companies don’t show up or make major announcements. And increasingly, that has been the case.

It’s somewhat surprising that CTIA has lost so much handset momentum to MWC with four of the major OS developers (Apple, Google, Microsoft and RIM)  and at least three major hardware vendors (Apple, RIM and Motorola) headquartered in North America. Nokia remains the only major European handset vendor with most of the rest (Samsung, LG, Sony, Hoawei and ZTE) based in Asia. Nonetheless, MWC, offering Barcelona’s beauty and hotel room shortages, has won.

On one hand, the new “super show” will still likely pale in comparison to MWC and there is the danger that trying to preserve the enterprise focus of the fall show will reinstate the multiple personality disorder that the fall show used to have. On the other hand, there isn’t  a lot of competition for wireless news in the fall with IFA not having a major wireless focus. In addition, particularly with the rise of prepaid smartphones and carriers, there may be an opportunity for the show to take on more of a holiday retail focus than it has in the past. CTIA probably won’t be able to attract the major ecosystem providers with the shift, but it does have a chance to entice some of the major handset vendors such as Samsung and LG to return to product introductions.