AT&T pushes ahead after T-Mobile bid

Carrier touts new mobile app tools, devices touted

LAS VEGAS -- AT&T dropped its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA in December, but demonstrated Monday that it is still running on all cylinders with announcements at CES of new smartphones, a tablet and new tools for mobile app developers.

David Haight, vice president of business development for AT&T, said in an interview that the company's failure to buy T-Mobile stresses the need for more spectrum.

"All parties, including carriers, will continue to find new spectrum and AT&T continues to do so and there are multiple ways to do that, but we still will continue on the path to manage the wireless supply and demand," he said. "The need for more apps and all the other stuff doesn't change."

While AT&T scrapped its plans to buy T-Mobile after government opposition and must pay T-Mobile a $4 billion break-up fee, Haight said, "In essence, nothing changes. We are still competing with T-Mobile and they with us and there's nothing more we've got to talk about there."

Haight made his comments at AT&T's Developer Conference, which was timed to run in conjunction with CES, where AT&T officials announced that five new Android smartphones and one tablet will be coming soon for its LTE network. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega made two stage appearances, one with with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who spoke to the crowd of mobile app developers. Later de la Vega appeared with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop to talk about Nokia's Lumia 900 smartphone that AT&T will sell soon for its 4G LTE network. HTC will launch the Titan II with Windows Phone, also over AT&T's 4G LTE network.

AT&T also emphasized at its developer conference a strong partnership with mobile app developers, noting that 2,000 attended its event in its third year. A contest for the best mobile app, with a prize of $20,000, attracted an unusual variety of developers, including one finalist who was 13 years old. Ajay Jain worked with his 15-year-old brother Paras Jain on an app called Electrify, which is designed to help consumers reduce their electricity usage. (See a video of the Jain brothers' app.)

AT&T also announced an application programming interface (API) platform for its developers and an API catalog with tools to support their work. Among the tools AT&T offers or plans to offer are tools for speech and messaging apps, music, advertising, storage and payments.

One free tool, released Monday to developers, would help developers create apps that operate more efficiently, AT&T said. Called the Application Resource Optimizer, it was successfully tested by online music provider Pandora and online gaming company Zynga.

Tom Conrad, chief technology officer at Pandora, said Pandora uses a lot of bandwidth for users; this contributes to heavy power consumption on devices. The ARO tool helped Pandora put a device's communications processor to sleep more often, to cut back on power consumption and reduce network traffic.

Zynga, maker of the popular Words with Friends online game, used ARO to reduce back-and-forth radio communications for the game by 13%, said Zynga Toronto's Chief Architect Jeff Zakrzewski.

AT&T plans to make ARO available as an open-source tool for use with all devices, on all carriers, later in the year.

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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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