De-commoditizing categories has proven hugely valuable for more than a half-century in building specialty and niche markets. But the resetting of the economy and the emptying out of the Starbucks cup suggests a macro shift back to the big brands that have the price flexibility to deliver real consumer value for the long-haul. Branded commodities are poised for a return to growth, even as the ultimate commodity still floats about in the air.
Cloud technology isn’t hype anymore: Businesses are moving computing work to the cloud. And with trillions of tech dollars at stake, it’s war up there. Here are the tech companies battling for their piece of the market.
If you can't do it right the first time, then do it better the second time. That's one of my favorite guideposts for sustainable business success, and Verizon is my latest poster child for this truth of business strategy (and life).
According to a survey of almost 60,000 people — more than half of them iPhone owners — AT&T was rated the worst wireless service provider in the United States.
“We each have a signal. A stream of raw power that flows with us. A power. A superpower. A super communication power.” So proclaims Verizon Wireless’s innovative “Rule the Air” advertising campaign.
Now this is an odd – if telling – move. All Wi-Fi-only iPads will appear at Verizon stores on the same day they are set to appear at AT&T stores. The trick? Verizon is selling the iPad and a MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot for the same price as the iPad 3G, a move which points to closer cooperation between big red and Cupertino.
To some, Google has been looking a bit sallow lately. The stock is down. Where once everything seemed to go the company's way, along came Apple's iPhone, launching a new wave of Web growth on a platform that largely bypassed the browser and Google's search box. The "app" revolution was going to spell an end to Google's dominance of Web advertising. But that's all so six-months-ago. When a group of Journal editors sat down with Eric Schmidt on a recent Friday, Google's CEO sounded nothing like a man whose company was facing a midlife crisis, let alone intimations of mortality.
Most business executives likely have never come across the concept. Yet despite its limited reach to a small audience of policy wonks, President Obama made it a campaign issue in 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is determined to make it the law, and industry analysts are concerned that its passage would undermine investment by Internet service providers (ISPs). A recent pact on the subject between Google and Verizon — the largest representatives on both sides of the debate — made the covers of the nation's major newspapers this week. What's the fuss over this thing called "net neutrality"?
In an emerging battle over regulating Internet access, companies are taking sides. Facebook, one of the companies that has flourished on the open Internet, indicated Wednesday that it did not support a proposal by Google and Verizon that critics say could let providers of Internet access chip away at that openness. Meanwhile an executive of AT&T, one of the companies that stands to profit from looser regulations, called the proposal a “reasonable framework.” Most media companies have stayed mute on the subject, but in an interview this week, the media mogul Barry Diller called the proposal a sham. And outside of technology circles, most people have not yet figured out what is at stake. The debate revolves around net neutrality, which in the broadest sense holds that Internet users should have equal access to all types of information online, and that companies offering Internet service should not be able to give priority to some sources or types of content.
Google and Verizon announced a joint proposal on Monday that would allow ISPs to offer premium content bundles over an unspecified global network — an unexpected gambit that would seem to call for separate and unequal internets. The two companies say the guidelines would ensure that no internet traffic of any kind is prioritized over any other kind (with the exception of viruses, spam and the like).
Marketers need to stop blasting messages to consumers and, instead, listen to them. So says Diane Hessan, president and CEO of Communispace, a 10-year-old company in Watertown, Mass., that creates online communities for marketers such as Kraft, Best Buy, Verizon and Mattel. These companies pay Communispace up to $25,000 a month to help them create and communicate with customers online for market research and feedback. Communispace pulled in $37 million in revenue in 2009, up 17% from the year before, according to the Honomichl Top 50 Report of U.S. Marketing Research Firms. Forbes' Ken Brunospoke with Hessan about online customer engagement and how it has changed over the past decade.
Google and Verizon on Monday introduced a proposal for how Internet service should be regulated — and were immediately criticized by groups that favor keeping the network as open as possible. The proposal includes exceptions for wireless Internet access and for potential new services that broadband providers could offer, including things like “advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.” The announcement is the latest move in a high-stakes battle over a principle known as net neutrality. The debate is over whether Internet users should be able to access all types of online information on an equal basis, or whether Internet service providers should be able to charge content companies for faster transmission.
Silicon Valley folks have a tendency to frame industry lobbying campaigns as morality crusades--instead of recognizing them for the self-interest they are. The latest of these causes, "net neutrality," calls for Internet Service Providers to be legally forced to treat every bit sent over the Internet the same as every other bit--i.e., be prevented from offering "premium" tiers in which some folks can pay to have their bits delivered faster than other bits. The Silicon Valley champion, Google, has long stumped for this concept. And Google is now being savaged for apparently betraying that stance and becoming "evil" by discussing a premium-tier deal with Verizon.
Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege. The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.
Marketer interest in the NFL has been so strong that the league actually moved to reduce its number of sponsors to 21 for the upcoming season from 30 corporate partners in 2001 and 24 in 2008. The purpose was to avoid the sponsor-overload of, say, a Nascar, which has done a good job of delineating the categories for its partners so there are no conflicts but, nonetheless, still has 49 corporate sponsors.
Phenomenal phones are flooding the market. In the past few weeks the new iPhone 4, the HTC 4G EVO, Droid X and HTC HD2 debuted, all phones with fast processors and big screens. But these new phones come at a cost – a recurring monthly charge. So before you sign a contract for two years of payments, which phone is really the bargain?
For the last two years, unlimited data plans have given app-hungry smartphone users an all-you-can-eat buffet. But will customers react to AT&T’s new, limited menu by simply eating less? Some software developers fear they will, and if that happens, the caps on data use that AT&T has imposed could also make consumers lose their appetite for the latest innovations.
AT&T Inc.’s decision to scrap unlimited data plans for new customers has prompted a backlash from bloggers and consumers like Danette Collins. “As soon as I can get out of the AT&T plan, I’ll switch to Verizon,” said Collins, a finance and operations manager in Portland, Oregon, who has AT&T service for her iPhone. “They’ve just shot themselves in the foot.”
In a significant shift in how phone carriers bill customers, AT&T Inc. will stop selling unlimited Internet data plans to new customers that buy smartphones and iPads, and will instead begin charging more for heavy bandwidth users. New AT&T customers will have to chose between two data plans with monthly usage limits—and pay additional fees for extra use. Existing customers, however, can stick with their current plans, AT&T said.
The upfront market, the annual mating dance in which ad buyers and major broadcast networks haggle over ad time for the new TV season, is heating up, and could be sold out in a matter of weeks, ad buyers and marketers say. It's a major reversal from last year when talks dragged on through much of the summer in a harsh economic climate.
Verizon Wireless is working with Google Inc. on a tablet computer, the carrier's chief executive, Lowell McAdam, said Tuesday, as the company endeavors to catch up with iPad host AT&T Inc. in devices that connect to wireless networks. The work is part of a deepening relationship between the largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers and Google, which has carved out a space in mobile devices with its Android operating system. Verizon Wireless last year heavily promoted the Motorola Droid, which runs Google's software.
There are some practical concerns in the battle between Sprint and Verizon--phone selection, for example, makes a big difference. But there are also a number of sustainability concerns to take into account, as explained in The HIP Investor, by R. Paul Herman. Sprint has received significantly more attention for its sustainability initiatives, mostly because they have been flashier. The Samsung Reclaim, for example, was Sprint's first "green" phone, featuring recycled plastic, soy-based ink in its user manual, and a box made out of recycled paper. A successor to the Reclaim, dubbed the Restore, will be released this summer. But green phones like the Reclaim and the Restore are little more than gimmicks until they become more desirable than heavy hitters like the Droid and iPhone.
Apple has granted AT&T an extension of its iPhone exclusivity agreement in a "Faustian" bargain that sees AT&T providing "low-cost and truly unlimited data plans for the iPad." But the extension is only for six months, and then the service goes up for grabs again, much to the delight of Verizon, whose grab for the iPad was purportedly rejected. If it's in the stars, Verizon could be getting access to the iPhone in 2011.
CenturyTel Inc. agreed Thursday to buy Qwest Comunications International Inc. in an all-stock deal valuing Qwest at about $10.6 billion—one of the biggest U.S. telecommunications deals in years. The merger will unite two of the country's largest landline phone companies, with operations in some 40 states across the country. It also represents a long-awaited consolidation play for Qwest, a remnant of the regional "Baby Bell" companies that has struggled to stay competitive with the national ascendancy of the wireless operations of AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.
It looks as if a truce has been called in the wireless wars. After months of putting much of its $1.87 billion media budget behind ads featuring Luke Wilson to beat back Verizon Wireless, AT&T is taking the high road with a new campaign themed "Rethink Possible." And after funding its "There's a map for that" ads that tear down AT&T's coverage with a big chunk of its $2.16 billion media budget, Verizon is expected to also relinquish its weapon.
AT&T is undertaking an ambitious rebranding effort under the banner "Rethink Possible" that includes a redesign that updates its trademark logo. The new theme attempts to position AT&T as a lifestyle company and elevate it from the recent ad sniping with rival Verizon. "Rethink Possible" will inform all advertising from the country's fourth-largest spender going forward.
With a carrier-agnostic iPhone coming to market later this summer, the conventional wisdom is that AT&T will lose customers (its phone coverage and iPhone service haven't been stellar) and a lot of profits (some say the iPhone has been not only its brightest but biggest single source of earnings). I say it doesn't have to work out this way. There's a post-generification breakout strategy for AT&T, but it would require a massive rethinking of its brand and marketing communications. Here are the three core realizations the company's brain trust would have to reach.
Last year, Palm had the hottest handset not named iPhone. The Pre was the company's long-awaited Hail Mary -- or at least its best shot to revive the once-storied brand and reclaim a bit of the hand-held market Palm created. Today, the Pre is not selling and nor is its cheaper, lower-end model, the Pixi. The company's stock plunged 30% on a fateful day last month as two analysts cut their price targets to zero and Morgan Joseph & Co. analyst Ilya Grozovsky called Palm "essentially in an accelerating death spiral."
Apple is set to drop AT&T as the exclusive carrier of its high-selling iPhone and introduce a new version of the handset for Verizon, which would ship next fall, according to the Wall Street Journal, ending the three-year lock AT&T has had on the iPhone in the U.S. (abroad, the iPhone is usually available on multiple carriers). So what will it mean if the iPhone is added to the nation's largest mobile network -- and one of its biggest advertisers? Expect a ripple effect for other handset makers, the app economy and mobile advertising that plays out something like this.
Apple Inc. plans to begin producing this year a new iPhone that could allow U.S. phone carriers other than AT&T Inc. to sell the iconic gadget, said people briefed by the company. The new iPhone would work on a type of wireless network called CDMA, these people said. CDMA is used by Verizon Wireless, AT&T's main competitor, as well as Sprint Nextel Corp. and a handful of cellular operators in countries including South Korea and Japan. The vast majority of carriers world-wide, including AT&T, use another technology called GSM.
Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, will include Skype Technologies SA’s Internet- calling software on phones to stave off competition from AT&T Inc., according to two people familiar with the matter. The service will let customers make Skype calls over the company’s 3G data network, said the people, who requested anonymity because the agreement hasn’t been announced. Verizon and Skype said yesterday that they will hold a joint press conference Feb. 16 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The companies gave no further details.
Google Inc., putting more pressure on cable and phone companies, said it plans to begin offering ultrafast Internet services to consumers in a small number of U.S. cities. Under the plan, the Internet search giant will take its biggest step into supplying Web connections rather than the services that run atop them. Google said it will build and test a few fiber-optic networks that reach homes, aiming to serve 50,000 to 500,000 people. Google executives said the move was designed to accelerate the deployment of faster networks and show off the sort of services that high-speed connections can enable, such as rapid video downloads.
Johnny Mercer, in my opinion, was the best lyricist of the 20th century, but I'm sure those words on a piece of paper, even repeated millions of times, would not have made "Moon River" famous. It was the music that made the words "Moon River" famous. Advertising needs visuals in the same way that lyrics need music, if you want to drive your words into the minds of your prospects. Without a visual hammer, an advertising campaign is almost certain to fail.
Sponsors flock to the Olympics because the games provide a worldwide platform for brand promotion. Implied in a sponsorship is a company's exclusivity in its brand category – and in the United States, that's something the US Olympic Committee vigorously defends. Witness the current controversy surrounding the upcoming Winter Games. Television ads just released by Subway and Verizon Wireless feature references to the games – but neither advertiser is an official Olympic sponsor.
Good friend Stowe Boyd recently shared a quote by Gabriel García Márquez, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” Indeed, quite simply many of us live life allowing specific, trusted individuals to know us in one or more of our personae. Our moral compass as well as outside influences affect how we balance our three lives. The size and permeability of our personal dividers vary in the separation of each life and resemble doors that open and close based on our desires. We nurture each individually with slight coalescence, but concentrate on the establishment of a distinct ecosystem for cultivating and grooming who we are in public, private, and in secret.
AT&T said Thursday that it will invest an additional $2 billion in its network in 2010 to make sure it keeps up with the growing demand from new smartphones and other 3G data devices, such as the Apple iPad, on its network. During its fourth quarter 2009 conference call, Chief Operating Officer John Stankey said AT&T plans to spend between $18 billion and $19 billion in 2010 upgrading its wireless and backhaul networks to handle the onslaught of new traffic. This is roughly $2 billion more than the company had invested in the previous year. Specifically, Stankey said AT&T will add 2,000 new cell sites and upgrade existing cell sites with three times more fiber links than it had in 2009. This will increase capacity for the backhaul network that connects the cell towers to AT&T's main network. The backhaul portion of the network is a critical component to AT&T's network. With these upgrades in place, Stankey said the company will be able to easily upgrade in the future to 4G wireless technology.
We have seen several epic marketing wars: The Cola War of Coke vs. Pepsi, The Beer War of Budweiser vs. Miller, The Mouthwash War of Listerine vs. Scope and The Battery War of Duracell vs. Energizer. But they all fail in comparison to the money and firepower currently being expended in the Cellphone War between AT&T and arch-rival Verizon Wireless. Last year AT&T and Verizon Wireless spent a combined $4 billion in advertising to blast consumers with 615,000 television commercials. Yet, despite the incredible sums spent and the enormous volume flooding the airways, most consumers are still confused.
Madison Avenue is going high and low for Valentine’s Day, as in low prices and high technology. Valentine’s Day is always among the most commercialized holidays on the marketing calendar, offering retailers and advertisers a chance to extract money from those consumers who have managed to refill bank accounts after depleting them for Christmas shopping. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans spent $14.7 billion last year on Valentine’s Day purchases.
Verizon Wireless introduced lower wireless-pricing plans Friday, a move that's likely to force rival AT&T Inc. to follow and could pressure margins on the carriers' high-end business. Verizon Communications, which jointly owns Verizon Wireless with Vodafone Group PLC, slashed pricing on some of its contract plans, dropping its nationwide unlimited voice plan to $69.99 a month from $99 and offering a nationwide unlimited voice-and-text plan for $89.99.
I gave myself a deadline of January 15 to do a recap of identity work in the 2000s, assuming that it wouldn’t be an editorial faux pas to do a list of this sort well into the new year. So here it is. An admittedly incomplete — it would take months to do this exhaustively — compilation of the most relevant identities of the past decade. The choices are listed chronologically and there is no ranking system, they are simply there as records of the corporations, products and services that shaped the decade and the identities that helped (or didn’t help) shape their perception in consumers’ eyes and minds.
We stopped by the LG Electronics booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to talk to Josh Lovison, practice lead for gaming and mobile at IPG's Emerging Media Lab. For all the talk about 3-D TVs, widgets, e-readers and tablets, Mr. Lovison thinks the most disruptive technology on display at CES is one that has been talked about a long time, but is quickly coming to fruition: 4G mobile networks.
Google’s expected unveiling on Tuesday of a rival to the iPhone is part of its careful plan to try to do what few other technology companies have done before: retain its leadership as computing shifts from one generation to the next. The rapid emergence of the smartphone as a versatile computing device may be as much a challenge as an opportunity for Google, which built its multibillion-dollar empire largely on the sale of small text ads linked to search queries typed on PCs.
Verizon Wireless made clear from the start that its Droid smartphone was designed to put pressure on Apple, the maker of the iPhone, and AT&T (T), the exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier. As part of a $100 million marketing push, Verizon Wireless enumerates several ways it believes the Droid outperforms the iPhone. Yet analysts say the Droid and other devices that sport the Android operating system may also take a toll on Research In Motion, the maker of another smartphone, the BlackBerry. "It's clear there's been a lot of marketing at Verizon around the Droid, so that is going to hurt RIM," says Raymond James (RJF) analyst Steve Li.
As part of the marketing to promote the launch of the Droid Smartphone, Verizon Wireless took to the streets, taking over four vacant storefronts in three cities to create a one-of-kind interactive experience for pedestrians. Through Dec. 27, pedestrians in San Francisco, Phoenix and Los Angeles are invited to play the Droid Game, a videogame at street level.
In recent months, tech blogs have been abuzz with rumors that Google is planning to market its own smartphone based on its Android operating system. The plan would signal a more aggressive effort by Google, which so far has relied on partners to build and market Android phones, to become a force in mobile devices. It could also put Google at odds with those partners, which include Verizon Wireless and Motorola, and it would sharpen its competition with Apple, whose iPhone dominates the high-end smartphone market in the United States.
So is the Droid the iPhone killer? So far, no, but it's off to a very respectable launch thanks to some smart seeding by Verizon. Analysts estimate Verizon sold between 100,000 and 200,000 Droids in its opening weekend; the wireless carrier should sell a total of 765,000 Droids by year-end, according to Avian Securities' forecast. At this pace, Droid, which was released in early November, would slightly trail the performance of the first Blackberry Storm, which sold a million units by the end of January after going on sale just before Thanksgiving last year.
Even as his advertising offensive against arch-rival AT&T continues to be the talk of the industry, Verizon CMO John Stratton took to the podium to explain why the "Maps" campaign was necessary. In this seven-minute video, he recaps Verizon's entire nine-year marketing history. In its latest move, the company abruptly threw out its prepared holiday ad campaign to replace it with the results of a data survey it commissioned of its own and AT&T's national G3 footprints.
The ongoing dispute between Verizon Wireless and AT&T over advertised coverage area -- coupled with a new phone for Verizon-- looks to be a buzz benefit for both companies. According to YouGovPolimetrix's BrandIndex, which takes the measure of positive vs. negative talk about a certain brand, buzz for both companies has increased in the two weeks between Nov. 2 and Nov. 19. At the beginning of the period, AT&T's buzz was at about 7.7, while Verizon's was around 21.3. By the end of the time period, AT&T's had risen to 14, while Verizon's had risen to 32.3.
'Tis the season to diss Apple in some very creative and entertaining ways. I'm just not sure whether it's a sign of strategic marketing insight, or fishbowl-like confusion of message over meaning. First came Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaigns, with its snippets of slice-of-life everypeople declaring their stereotypical lifestyles, and then shoppers explaining how they'd first looked at an Apple but then chose a PC because it was a better value. I'm all for comparison ads but the nonsense of contrasting PC-ness with Apple-ness is kind of silly.
Apple, once untouchable in terms of marketing, has gotten a little roughed up lately. For much of the decade, Apple got away with bashing longtime adversary Microsoft without repercussions. Apple also dominated the MP3 player category without a serious rival. But now, as Microsoft has reinvigorated its marketing and it navigates into the phone handset category, suddenly everyone is bashing Apple.
More than a hundred people were lined up at midnight Thursday outside a Verizon Wireless store in midtown Manhattan to be among the first people to buy the new Motorola Droid. About 65 eager shoppers lined the south side of West 34th Street across from Macy's in Manhattan at 11:30 p.m. Thursday waiting for the store to open. Verizon opened the store from midnight to 2 a.m. to give people in the Big Apple a head start on the morning cell phone rush. By midnight, when the doors officially opened, about 100 people stood in line as Verizon officials ushered in customers 25 at a time.
Last week, I reviewed not one, but three new phones. You’d think that would be enough for a while, but fall is peak season for new mobile devices, and another major release — Motorola’s Droid — is upon us this week. But before we get to today’s big review of the Droid, we need a noun. What should we call these iPhone-like, touch screen Wi-Fi phones with music and video, real Web browsers, e-mail, sensors (light, tilt, location, proximity), and, above all, app stores? These machines can download thousands of free or cheap add-on programs — “apps” — and become GPS units, musical instruments and medical equipment. “Smartphone” is too limited. A smartphone is a cellphone with e-mail — an old BlackBerry, a Blackjack, maybe a Treo. This new category — somewhere between cellphones and laptops, or even beyond them — deserves a name of its own.
For the third year in a row, Apple's iPhone will enter the holiday shopping season as the smartphone to beat. But this year, it actually has some respectable challengers. Perhaps the best rival will be the new Droid phone by Motorola for Verizon Wireless. Running the newest version of Google's Android operating system, Droid includes an improved web browser, free turn-by-turn navigation, a gorgeous screen, a slide-out keyboard and a super-fast processor.
Yes, there's a bit of a circus going on with real-time search, and a new player seems to appear weekly. Meanwhile, we get predictions of how Google and Bing had better do something soon with it -- or else. Let's try to rein it in a bit, starting with, just what is real-time search? You know what web search is -- do a search, get web pages. Image search? Search, get images. So real-time search gives you -- real times?
In the past few weeks, Verizon Wireless has fired a pair of loaded torpedoes at rival AT&T—and more notably Apple, a company often viewed as a sacred cow in both the marketing and technology spheres. Telecom experts say that such an Apple offensive is long overdue, though not without risk. Still, most observers doubt that Verizon’s attacking posture indicates that the company has given up on the ultimate prize—being able to offer Apple’s iPhone on its network once AT&T’s exclusive contract expires.
With Apple posting record profits last week, thanks in large part to brisk sales of its iPhone, it may seem downright crazy to mount a smartphone challenge at all, let alone one that takes direct aim at the iPhone. But that's just what Verizon, Google and Motorola are doing. With a teaser ad from Verizon zeroing in on the device's perceived shortcomings, such as its lack of a physical keyboard, the triumvirate is beginning a big push for Droid, the flagship device of the Google-backed Android operating system. So far, industry observers are unmoved by the buzz and give the Droid long odds in its bid to become the next ubiquitous handset.
Whatever rumors were brewing a few months ago that Apple would break its exclusivity with AT&T and take its iPhone to other carriers, it's a good bet they can be put to bed for now. Less than two weeks after Verizon Wireless aired a TV commercial that takes aim at AT&T's network service, it's now going straight for the iPhone. The teaser campaign, which plugs the new Android device and debuted Saturday night during the playoff game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, is, however, causing some head-scratching.
Verizon and Motorola finally lifted the curtain on their new Droid Android phone yesterday. Make no mistake, this is Android’s flagship product, and the first phone that will pose a significant threat to Apple’s iPhone. And it will be available very soon, possibly as early as the end of this month. MobileCrunch has been tracking the phone, which has also been called the Tao or Sholes, for some time. Just about anyone who has come in contact with the phone can’t stop talking about it. And from what we hear, they have good reason.
Radio companies, like all media companies, are under more pressure than ever to prove their medium's value to marketers. But when three brands opened up their strategies to radio executives at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audio Council in New York, the industry got an insightful look as to what else marketers are looking for from radio.
If you think Google, Microsoft and Apple are bad-ass, cutthroat, take-no-prisoner companies, you should meet the nation’s wireless carriers, who have collectively convinced those intensively competitive software giants to cripple their products. Need any more proof that the nation’s four largest wireless carriers - AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile - have too much control over the airwaves, what phones you can use and what applications you can run on them?
Microsoft is in talks with Verizon Wireless to launch a touch-screen cellphone on the carrier's network early next year, in a bid to compete with Apple's iPhone.
Amid all the talk about what the iPhone has done for AT&T, Verizon is also delivering -- without a killer handset.
You might recognize Sprint CEO Dan Hesse from those black and white commercials. When I met with him last week at a hotel bar in Oakland, Calif., two women at the next table certainly did. They treated him like a celebrity. I wouldn't go that far, but he does appear to have a good handle on the mobile industry and what Sprint--the No. 3 cell phone service provider behind AT&T and Verizon--needs to do. It's too early to know for sure, but it seems as if Hesse could be Sprint's come back kid.