Sprint Gets It! (surprise, surprise)

This has been a prominent news week for Sprint Nextel with a number of press releases (mostly timed to the CTIA trade show) advancing the mobility revolution on a number of fronts.  Given that I’ve given credit to other companies (Nokia, Motorola, Google) when they make announcements indicating that they understand and are wisely acting on the revolution in how we work, live, and play being driven by mobility, I would be sorely remiss if I did not call it out when my own employer makes similarly noteworthy announcements.

So, what did Sprint announce this week?

A bunch of things…

First, a week ago today the company announced the free bundling of Navigation in a number of its Data Packs and a very cost effective option for other data customers to get navigation anytime they need it.  If you’ve hung around the Law of Mobility for long, you know that I’m a big believer that contextual data (like location) is the key change that enables mobility to revolutionize how we interact with the world and how we do our jobs.  The sooner folks get a taste for this power of mobility, the quicker the revolution will become apparent to everyone.  By “giving” navigation away to some customers, and making it very affordable for casual use to a bunch more customers, Sprint is wisely driving the revolution forward.

The next three announcements all happened on Monday with the opening of CTIA.

Sprint, along with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Advance/Newhouse Communications announced Pivot, “the integrated service that gives consumers the ability to link their mobile phone service with their home digital phone, and certain high-speed internet services and digital cable services.”  This is the next step in Sprint’s joint efforts with the country’s largest cable providers to offer a compelling combination of communications and entertainment options for when you’re at home or on the go.  There are three interesting facets to this announcement.  “Pivot provides customers with the ability to watch live and mobile TV, access home TV listings using a programming guide like the one they use at home, check home email and voicemail from one source, access the Internet, make unlimited calls between their cable home service and mobile phones, and have the convenience of one point of contact for service and billing.”  In other words, the cable companies have built mobility into their service, and by doing so, are creating tremendous new value for their customers.  Second, by uniting under a single brand, the cable companies have created a truly nationwide offer that cannot be matched by any big bell.  Finally, the selection of a single nationwide brand across multiple communications providers parallels the launch of the Cellular One brand by the independent wireless carriers following the very first cellular wireless spectrum lotteries nearly a quarter of a century ago.  If you can remember those ancient days, you know that move was a key enabler for a bunch of scrappy upstarts to successfully compete against big bell monopolists.  I’m seeing very encouraging parallels in this move by Sprint and the cable companies.

Sprint made two announcements about music at CTIA.  One was the release of UpStage, a new music phone with a unique design.  One of the challenges with converging functionality into a mobile phone is that you have to compromise.  A mobile phone isn’t designed to be a great music player, so you settle for a phone that can also play music.  UpStage is literally two devices in one.  On one side, it’s a great phone.  Flip it over, and it’s a great music player.  And all at a very reasonable price!  If that weren’t enough to drive adoption of mobile music, Sprint also announced that, beginning in early April, all over the air song downloads from the Sprint music store would only cost 99 cents.  By eliminating a very real barrier (premium price), folks are now more likely than ever to experience and appreciate the power of mobility in buying and enjoying music.  Sprint has taken a process that previously was fixed to a place (ie. your PC or the music store) and made it completely mobile by affordably delivering songs over the air!

Monday’s final announcements had to do with the company’s WiMax initiatives.  You’ve already heard me rave about how significant Sprint’s 4G network will be in driving the mobility revolution forward.  One of the key aspects is that Sprint is positioning for mobile broadband to easily be built into a wide variety of consumer electronics products.  In addition to announcing a longer list of cities that will be getting WiMax in 2008, Sprint also announced progress on the technology ecosystem that will make it easy for mobility to be built into an expanding array of products.  Just as electricity has been built into more product categories than Edison ever would have imagined; just as microprocessors have been built into more product categories than Gordon Moore would have ever imagined, Sprint’s announcement this week was one more step towards mobility being built into way more product categories than any of us today can imagine.  Power up!

In addition to formal announcements, Sprint was also talking this week about a couple of interesting infrastructure plays that will help businesses and consumers to capture more of the power of mobility.  Sprint was showing off Cisco’s ENZO router which will make it easy for Sprint’s business customers to use the company’s EV-DO 3G network to connect (fixed and mobile) “locations” into corporate networks.  There also was talk at the show of Sprint and Samsung offering the Ubicell to create wireless coverage in your home or office using your broadband Internet connection.  I haven’t seen any official Sprint acknowledgement, so for now all I can say is it sounds like a very cool rumor.

Context, coverage, building mobility into cable services, building mobility into consumer electronics, building mobility into enterprise networks, yeah, I’d say that Sprint get’s it!

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