@ Sprint Developer Conference: ‘Moving from mildly irritating to tolerable'

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), took the stage late in the day at the carrier’s developer conference here to help frame the company’s position and standing in the developer community. He also tried his hat at comedy regularly along the way. Borrowing from The Onion, a satirical paper that Hesse said he reads religiously, he began with what he called “the open continuum” to define where Sprint stands in the world of openness compared to its competitors. “We’ve been in this mildly irritating category, if you will, but we’re moving to the more open category,” he said. “Openness for us means enablement… We don’t make the content. We don’t make the app. We make it better, we make it pop between our network and our devices.”

Looking at the open continuum, Hesse concluded that “Sprint is moving from mildly irritating to tolerable. The other guys are unbearable.” Hesse then spent a good deal of time talking about the M2M space, calling it “the greatest growth opportunity we have in our industry.” Although the industry is just at the tip of the iceberg in the “Internet of things,” roughly half of Sprint’s wholesale wireless subscribers are M2M today, he said. “It’s going to transform the way some industries, or verticals, do business.” Sprint’s new M2M collaboration center is one of the areas that will help differentiate Sprint, Hesse said. For him, the most interesting and exciting use case for M2M is in the field of health care and medicine. “Just take a look at IT spending in health care,” he said. “It underspends in IT… M2M will transform that.” He also made a few announcements during the keynote, including a new Sprint Mobile Wallet that will give customers a universal PIN and let developers sell their apps outside of “walled” app stores. The carrier is working toward opening up its voice and messaging platforms to third parties as well. “What you need to make money is scale. What we’re offering to you in this environment… is really access to distribution and partners,” he said. Sprint ID is yet another example where Sprint is “getting out of the way” and “enabling that direct relationship between customers and brands,” Hesse continued. And finally, during a question-and-answer period, Hesse was asked about LTE. “Should we ever want to add LTE to our network in addition to WiMAX … we have the spectrum to do that,” he said. "We have no plans to put in LTE right now… But we want to make sure we have the flexibility to do that.”

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