WAVE 2001 in Las Vegas

May 14 to 17, 2001, Aladdin Resort

Recently, Pen Computing Magazine attended WAVE 2001 in Las Vegas (where I was a judge in the Best-Wireless-Application contest). Billed as a "Wireless Alliances and Vision Exchange," the four day conference, presented by Cingular Wireless (which now includes the former BellSouth Wireless that had once been known as RAM Mobile Data) certainly lived up to its billing of being "the center of the wireless universe" for those four days.

This was an entirely different affair from the first conference in 1996 that drew some 40 attendees to Newark Airport. Cingular pulled out all the stops and put on a dazzling show in the equally dazzling Aladdin hotel and resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Las Vegas hotels usually barely have a good modem connection because the hotel wants you to be in the casino and not in the room. I was therefore quite surprised to find high speed Internet access AND a computer in every room. Anyway, the conference facilities, the sessions, the presenters, and, last but not least, the entertainment and extracurricular activities were all first class.

Keynotes by Stephen Carter and Janet Boudris

After a grand welcoming party on Sunday night, the conference began on Monday morning. In line with the future-oriented theme of WAVE 2001 was a high tech presentation stage that equally borrowed from Startrek (consoles and screens) and StarGate (a gate through which speakers emerged from). Proceedings began with a keynote by CEO Stephen Carter. Getting it all done just right was not an easy task for Cingular which, Carter explained, is "not a technology but a self expression company." After the mergers, Cingular now has a total of 12 million subscribers and is the nation's #2 wireless company with 675,000 wireless subscribers. Cingular, of course, includes the Mobitex packet data network initially known as RAM Mobile Data and then as Bellsouth Wireless Data.

The MC throughout the event was Cingular's eloquent Vice President for Wireless Solutions, Janet Boudris. She was assisted by a wisecracking cartoon developer from the future named "Pac-D" (Packet Data). Boudris pulled off this interaction with an onscreen character with wit and surprising ease. In her initial words, she pointed out that business-to-business e-commerce is vastly greater than its business-to-consumer counterpart--a great opportunity. Addressing wireless' seemingly slow adoption, she mentioned that new technologies usually take about 25 years to reach 50% penetration and that wireless is right on track. She also offered the wisecrack that "mobile professional is the catch-all term for those who are not actually fixing anything." Boudris cautioned that there are still plenty of loose ends that need to be tied together in order to form the kinds of end-to-end solutions that will allow m-business to really take off. She mentioned the importance of location-based services as an example of applications that could provide great value. She again cautioned that wireless speeds will continue to lag behind wireline connections and that this will require different and optimized applications. She then presented Cingular's path from its current offerings to higher speed 3G networks, essentially a path from the current Mobitex to GPRS and then Wideband CDMA.

Guy Kawasaki's Rules for Revolutionaries

Guy Kawasaki, best known for having been Apple's chief evangelist during the early Macintosh days, made a terrific presentation that sort of bridged stand-up comedy with business acumen. Guy shared with the audience the ten rules for revolutionaries. They are:

1- Jump to the next curve.
Revolutionaries must jump or create the next curve. Existing leaders in any given field almost never are the ones that make the jump to the next curve. Ice harvesters didn't make refrigerators. The next curve is not necessarily an extension of the last. It is not about evolution. Don't go for 25% better, go for 25 times better.

2- Don't worry, be crappy.
Initial product often may seem like a step backwards. That's okay. Do not wait for perfection. The first laser printer, for example, was too expensive and totally limited but so much better than Daisy wheel technology that it was no contest, even though the initial product was "crappy."

3- Churn, baby, churn
After Rule 2, take that piece of crap and then fix it. Nobody ships a perfect revolution, but then you need to get going to make things right. Apple was bad at that but Microsoft is great at it.

4- Break down barriers
Let people test drive the great new stuff. Do not let price be a barrier.

5- Make envangelists, not sales
Create enthusiasm in the trenches, make a cult and a cause. It is about making the world a better place.

6- Let a thousand flowers bloom
This is a quote from Mao Tse Tung. To Kawasaki it means to encourage people to use your revolution in whatever way they see fit. PageMaker was a case in point. No one expected that the Mac to foster desktop publishing. Blackberry killer app is supposed to be email but it may be something totally different.

7- Eat like a bird, poop like a elephant
This one was a bit tough to grasp. From what I can tell, Kawasaki said that birds actually eat a an awful lot compared to their bodyweight. The elephant part is clear. In essence, the point is to consume as much info as you can, then dump whatever is useless.

8- Think digital, act analog
It is about people! Even the greatest (and technologically most complex) invention must be brought to the people if it is to succeed.

9- Do not ask people to do something you wouldn't do.
This one is self-explanatory, or at least it should be.

10- Do not let the bozos grind you down!
People will always tell you why it won't work. Don't listen to every dissenter. Even brilliant people can be hugely wrong. (Here Kawasaki related a little story of how a venture capitalist he knew had asked him to interview for CEO of Yahoo. Kawasaki had declined on the grounds that "it is too far to drive and how can Yahoo be a business?" The accompanying slide was signed, "Guy Kawasaki, Bozo"

WAVE 2001 offered several dozen workshops and breakout sessions. Here is the gist of some that I attended:

Session- Cingular Wireless Web Strategy.

Cingular's Ray Tarantino introduced the company's new Developer Portal which is a single source web site for tools not only for Mobitex but also for WAP, SMS, SMTP, and so on. It is free, has support boards, and you can set up a personalized portal. An optional $650 package includes consulting support. The portal is available via will phone browser also.

Tarantino then talked about some if Cingular's current and upcoming services and tools, including a WML browser for 900 series RIM devices where each has a http address for push apps. He stressed the importance of end-to-end solutions and also some of the practical aspects like how will customers of an application be charged?

The most informative part of the presentation was a recap of the several generations of middleware solutions over the years. The first generation worked well and made for a good user interface, but it was expensive and complex. The second generation began 95 when TCP/IP stacks became available on wireless devices. However, they were designed for desktop. Third generation from 98 on was based on WAP and HDML. It was widely accepted but people never really fell in love with WAP. This generation uses application servers, and XSL style sheets handle formatting for different devices. The fourth generation, launched in 2001, is based on Java. Optimised for wireless and a full-blown platform for distributed processing. Java app server sends to Cingular Java gateway. Gateway can deliver apps to devices. Available Q4 of 2001. Storefront provides many ways to charge for Services.

Tarantino also mentioned that the launching of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) platforms later this year "will open things up for Palm and Pocket PC."

Tuesday's luncheon speaker was Dale Irvine, Firm Director/CIO, West Sector Technology, of Deloitte & Touche. He talked about how his company has embraced wireless and how wireless messaging has become ubiquitous at Deloitte & Touche.

Evening entertainment consisted of a trip to the neighboring Luxor to catch a performance by the famous and exceedingly weird Blue Man Group.

Carl Yankowski, CEO Palm

Day two began with a presentation by Palm Computing's CEO, Carl Yankowski. Yankowski opened with a great video of Dave Letterman in a spoof of the Palm commercial where a young woman in a train beams a man in another train her contact info. Letterman re-enacts the scene, but the note on his Palm reads, "In your dreams, creapo!"

Yankowski then made the case for Palm in the enterprise and, in the process, offered some interesting tidbits of information and general observations. Mobile computing will drastically alter the Enterprise. The Meta Group, for example, predicts that the enterprise segment will be over 50% of handheld market by 2004. To illustrate, Yankowski mentioned that Palm sold 15,000 wireless devices to Sears, that 80% of all Palms are synchronized at work, that 40% of Palms are paid for or subsidized by companies, and that there are 10,000 Palm apps versus just 300 for the Pocket PC platform. The question "Why Palm in the enterprise?" Jankowski answered as follows: It is a safe choice, a broad alliance, an open platform, offers great ease of use, has the lowest cost of ownership, and provides technology leadership.

Yankowski mentioned that his company was working on ARM-based Palm OS 5 and had issued a OS license to Garmin, which will have its own hadheld. He sees wireless as an enabler rather than a solution. The next generation of Mobitex Palm Vllx will have a SD card slot and a nice silver body. The device, which Jankowski repeatedly flashed to the audience, looked a bit like the new Sony Clie 610/710. Yankowski said that WAVE attendees are among the few to have seen the device. In more general terms, he said that screen size will be very important as voice and data merge. The ARM-based 5.0 will be ready "when pipes are ready." It includes multimedia, rich music, video, and will support a bunch of SD I/O cards including a digital camera. He said SD cards will have capacities of 1 gig next year. He expect new enterprise products and solutions for the second half of 2001. Palm had 1.4 billion sales last nine months. The new Palm VII, the i700, is always on, has instant messaging, universal email, notification. Palm will offer 320 x 320 screens "soon." Yankowski ecxpects smaller devices with larger screens. Organic screens are on the horizon, and perhaps foldable keyboards which are on drawing board today. He mentioned that there were 150,000 registered Palm developers, and that Palm had a "personal companion" market share of 76% worldwide in 2000 (per IDC), as well as a 90% US retail share in March of 2001. Of Fortune 1000 companies, Palm powered devices are on 85% of their standards list.

Ann Wettersten, VP Wireless at SUN

Ms Wettersten talked about the wireless evolution where 2G networks were about access, 2.5G about commerce and convenience, and 3G humanity and lifestyle. The emphasis, clearly, is on presenting the right service at the right place on the right device at the right time. Wettersten spoke of the need for open standards, and scalability, a notion that is going all the way back to SUN's "The Network is the Computer" slogan of over a decade ago. Add to that Smart Services. Java and XML, for example, are key. Java has been out for six years and has 2.5 million developers. Over 2.5 million Java-enabled wireless devices have been sold.

Jon Bostrom, who was chief architect of the Java NTT DoCoMo implementation, gave an overview of Java, from the Enterprise edition all the way down to Java Card as small as SD card. Neat thing with Java is that when you are done using an app, you simply ditch it. Bostrom stressed that "it is not about the bandwidth, it is about the service" and mentioned the great succcess of NTT DocoMo despite ist slow 9.6kbps service.

Palm in the Enterprise

Dennis Burns, Dir. Business Dev. Wireless

In this session Mr. Burns provided an informative overview of where Palm stands, what initiatives Palm is involved in, and what the future will hold. The presentation came perhaps across as a bit defensive about Palm's ability to make it big in the enterprise. Salient points mentioned:

  • The Palm i700 will come out this Fall
  • 13 million Palm devices have been sold
  • Market share continues to grow
  • Expects 256 mb SD available by June
  • Claims 1 gig available this year
  • SD-based bar code, digicam, GPS within a few months
  • Look for sleds that can use CF and PC Cards later this summer
  • 97% of Palm revenue comes from devices right now
  • Goal to have 25% non-device revenue within two years
  • Integration of Extended Systems technology for secure email
  • Several new licensees over next few months
  • 250,000 people on Palm.net with Palm VIIs
  • Corporate email access via i700 product
  • CDMA and other sleds in Europe
  • i700 initially with Mobitex, then other services
  • 2-3 million Palms shipped per quarter
  • Palm targets field service, sales, mobile office
  • Support of XML, HTML, WML in addition to Web Clippings
  • Xircom sled for m-series available
  • Palm Alliance program at five different levels from free to $20.000 per year
  • Some 65 PC Expo partners' booths
  • Plugged In Program for third party device developers
  • Siebel on Palm
  • Palm Vx as little as $50 in corporate quantity 50
  • GPRS second half 2002 in a different device than the i700

SUN Microsystems session on their development of a Field Information Appliance.

Presented by Greg Richards

Case study of what SUN did when they needed a wireless device for all of their field engineers. The device was to be based on some of their core technologies.

After much evaluation, SUN chose the Symbol 2700 rugged PPC (60 Mhz MIPS and 16MB RAM) with custom snap-on keyboard that Symbol built. Sun bought the first 3,000 keyboards. As far as the operating system went, SUN chose JAVA on Red Hat Linux. Why not CE? There was a performance problem with the slow 60MHz processor. Why not Palm? Not enough heap and stack. Symbol developed a Linux OS implementation for the device in 65 days. Sun's internal project team was only three and the challenge was to make it all work together: Symbol hardware, Red Hat embedded Linux, JavaSoft, Aether for fulfillment and wireless aggregation and support and billing. lnterlink developed applications in Java. Mr. Richards praised Symbol for a great job and speedy implementation (Project idea May 2000, got going Summer 2000, and deployment started in May 2001).

Lessons: build a small cross-functional team but don't seek consensus beyond that. Once you have a concept, do it!


Entertainment for the third night consisted of a very cool outing to the Harley Davidson Cafe on the Strip. We were treated to not only exclusive use of the entire cafe, but also a fabulous show of the Blues Brothers and to Cingular's very own Janet Boudris morphing, for an evening, into the biker chick sex symbol of the wireless industry. Way to go, Boudris, as Pac-D would say.

Overall Impressions

Cingular went all out to make WAVE 2001 a worthwhile event. Venue, sessions, logistics, entertainment were all first rate. There was a good balance between keynotes, general presentations, breakout sessions, and time for exhibits. I got the impression that Cingular wanted to use this conference to eliminate some of the confusion after all the recent name changes (RAM Mobile to BellSouth Wireless to Cingular). As a result, WAVE was perhaps a bit heavy on promotional sessions and a bit light technological overviews (I should mention that there was a final day of just tech sessions for the developers). It was great to have the CEO of Palm present his vision, and Kawasaki's speech was hilarious. Kudos to Janet Boudris who did an absolutely marvelous job as overall mistress of ceremonies.

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer