An interesting interchange between analysts points to a bigger issue concerning the future of mobile WiMax.
In mid April, In-Stat released a survey of more than 12,000 people that indicated users prefer WiMax over cellular data and Wi-Fi. Darryl Schoolar, the In-Stat analyst behind the report, was quoted in the press release as saying that the report focused on uses of WiMax that are or soon will be available, not more futuristic uses of the platform.
Analyst Derek Kerton criticized the report at Tech Dirt because, he said, it compared the existing cellular landscape against a potential WiMax reality -- one that may or may not come true.
The back and forth begs the bigger question of timing. In a later post, Kerton referenced the previous comments and linked to a story featuring Jane Zweig, CEO of The Shosteck Group, at Twice. Zweig suggests that mobile WiMax could be the next Iridium, which is like saying that a movie in production could be the next Heaven's Gate. Problems arise, Zweig says, when strategic decisions are made without accounting for technical evolution and marketplace growth that will be made by the existing platforms before the new entry actually launches.
Another recent addition from the analyst community to the debate over the future of WiMax is a report from Maravedis. Author Jeff Orr doesn't directly address the question of whether WiMax vendors and carriers are paying attention to the growth patterns of other platforms. However, the report says WiMax will become a key enabler of the consumer electronics industry and this will create revenue sources that aren't obvious today. This suggests Orr believes the WiMax brain trust is doing its homework.
The big question here is not which analyst is on the mark. The question, from 50,000 feet, is about the speed of innovation and the ability to commandeer market share in an increasingly crowded environment. Our perspective is that many of the old assumptions should be discounted -- or at least reconsidered -- because of the nature of the new marketplace.
The landscape is transformed: Until relatively recently, there were few (or no) choices for people who wanted mobile communications. Today, the sky is crowded with platforms that partially or heavily overlap, consumers are far more sophisticated and aware of what is available, the old demarcation lines between consumers and corporate devices are fading, and vendors and carriers are more nuanced in how they introduce new products.
What remains to be seen is how this complex and highly competitive environment affects new technologies as they roll out. The reflective answer is that such a landscape will hurt newcomers. That may be true. But, perhaps, the counterintuitive will come to pass: That corporate users, consumers and "prosumers" of the future will be savvy enough to find the best platform for what they want to do, regardless of whether it is offered by their existing provider or a newcomer.