1) Buggy BlackBerry App World store.
RIM finally launched its highly anticipated BlackBerry App World store to kick-off CTIA last week. Many of us in the mobile content space downloaded the application within hours of it being available (I did it right before RIM Founder/Pres/Co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis' uninspired/ing keynote on April 1st). Overall the application has a nice UI, but that was offset by myriad glitches including seemingly random Search results, a Games folder that claimed 171 titles but only rendered 1 (to the benefit of MTV Networks) & connectivity problems. Things improved as the week wore on for me, but others must have had recurring issues because RIM has already rolled out 2 updates to the software (versions 18.104.22.168 & 22.214.171.124). My favorite App so far is the music recognition tool Shazam (available in UK 100 years ago , Apple months ago), which is available for a free trial period. But I must say, in digging through the catalog the current offering seems more similar to that of a carrier deck (or Magmic's Bplay site) than the iTunes App Store. Besides creating an exciting retail environment for consumers, and building consumer awareness, the biggest challenge BlackBerry App World will face will be on the billing front. RIM elected to use PayPal...which could prove super-klugy (and may be a deal breaker) for those consumers who don't have existing accounts.
2) Nokia N97 Widget Homescreen
Got a demo of the N97 at the Nokia booth on the showroom floor. Pretty damned impressive device. Really attractive form factor, rockstar specs and a nice tactile QWERTY keyboard...however the thing I liked the best was a very cool, customizable, widget-driven desktop/homescreen. Very, very slick looking. Unfortunately, once you leave the homescreen you're subject to Nokia's classically arcane UI and navigation. The device will be available in the US in Summer or Fall...but not with a carrier (or its subsidy) so expect a price somewhere between $500 - $1,000 (yikes!).
3) Content Providers Abandoned The Showroom Floor
It seemed that no one I knew from the mobile content side spent any meaningful time on the showroom floor of CTIA. Many didn't even get a pass to the show, instead opting to have meetings in hotel conference rooms, suites, bars or restaurants. Those who did venture to the convention center would find a small, somewhat pathetic cluster of content provider mini-booths stuck in a far corner of the South Hall (which you can only find by accident). Sad. Clearly CTIA has to do something drastic to re-energize the content component of the show or risk losing that constituency of exhibitors & attendees altogether. In the meantime I'm establishing a competing, content focused mobile show at the Parasol Up bar at The Wynn.