LAS VEGAS—It's easy to poke fun at people so absorbed in their smart phones, tablets and other mobile technology that they're oblivious to anything outside the virtual world (stop signs, theater etiquette, live sporting events, children etc.). Yet some of those whose ads poke the most fun—Verizon and Microsoft, to name a few—are planning for a future in which such behavior becomes the norm.
Not so much a contradiction as an interesting side note to today's opening keynote at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg encouraged those in attendance to disregard a request made by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA, they run CES) for attendees to refrain from using wireless technology for fear that it would interfere with the keynote presentation. Seidenberg draws his paycheck from the world's growing wireless addiction, so it's no surprise that he would tell the audience to "ping" all they want while he spoke.
Verizon's goal is to support pinging for years to come, regardless of how much and what type of content floods the Internet. Video, he pointed out, takes up about half of all Internet traffic, up from about 10 percent only five years ago. The way to deliver 3-D content, holograms and anything else programmers and consumer electronics companies can dream up is to build "future-proof" networks, he added.
A big part of future-proofing is the transition to the next generation of wireless standards, or 4G. Verizon's network is based upon technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE), which is an approach to 4G that seeks to build a mobile broadband network upon which multimedia services can be offered with minimal latency (basically, delays). LTE amps up mobile speeds by a factor of 10 while cutting latency in half, said Verizon president and chief operating officer Lowell McAdam, who joined Seidenberg onstage during the Thursday morning opening keynote.
Fiber optics is the only type of network that can handle the coming traffic, which is why Verizon delivers fiber to its cell sites throughout its new LTE network, McAdams said. McAdams also provided a useful definition of the nebulous "cloud computing" concept that Microsoft and other tech companies are pushing. The cloud consists of "huge digital storehouses for basically anything that can be turned into 1s and 0s and delivered anywhere a network reaches," he said.
With no announcement (at the moment) of Apple opening its hugely successful iPhone or iPad platforms beyond AT&T, Verizon continues to support competing technologies that use Google's Android operating system and applications. This includes Motorola's Droid Bionic smart phone, scheduled to be on sale by midyear, and Motorola's Xoom tablet, which launches next month and runs the new Android Honeycomb operating system. Verizon is already supporting Samsung's Galaxy smart phone and tablets, both seen as competitors to Apple. Samsung has already said that it sold 10 million units of the Galaxy S smart phone last year, a model the company began selling in June.
Incidentally, Verizon and Time Warner played a star-studded short video during the keynote in which comedian Ellen DeGeneres ignores actor Mark Wahlberg in favor of her smart phone while he's a guest on her show (even as he tells her about terrifying experience while traveling, no less). Another clip from the video has the cast of the movie "The Hangover" shooing away a production assistant trying to get them to the set so that they can instead watch video clips (from "The Hangover," of course) on their tablet. The video was clearly produced all in fun, but many a truth has been said in jest.
Image of Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg courtesy of Larry Greenemeier/Scientific American