The Open Mobile Summit may be a tiny show compared to its larger wireless counterparts CTIA Wireless and Mobile World Congress, but unlike those shows the summit is actually growing. In its second year, the event in San Francisco drew almost 400 attendees and speakers, nearly double last year’s attendance, despite the economic downturn. Robin Batt, the summit founder and director of Open Mobile Media, said show registration reached 70% of capacity six weeks before it was scheduled, prompting her to scale back on marketing and search for a larger venue.
“Last year, the writing was on the wall for openness, though not everybody was reading it,” Batt said. “Now everyone realizes open mobility is the future.” One major difference between this year’s events and last year’s was interest from the operators. Batt said she always intended the invent to be a neutral ground for carriers and developers to meet, unlike more operator-centric shows CTIA Wireless and MWC, but last year the event wound up being a forum for developers, wireless vendors and Internet companies. This year, carriers were represented in force. John Donovan, chief technology officer for AT&T, and Cole Brodman, CTO for T-Mobile USA, delivered keynotes and carriers were well represented across the panels.
“Last year people thought it was going to be an anti-establishment show,” Batt said. “It would have been another thing if we had something called the Open Mobile Summit and stood around bitching about the carriers. Last year most carriers didn’t participate because that’s what they felt we were going to do. Carriers realized that that wasn’t the case.”
Not that there wasn’t any anti-operator sentiment at the show. Walt Mossberg, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared wireless operators to “Soviet ministries” during his introduction on the second day of the show, and he and the audience didn’t give Donovan much slack during a Q&A session after his keynote. But Donovan also drew applause when he suggested to the audience that openness shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the operators, but also of the device, software and applications community.