Are Canadian companies leaders in mobility?

There was a time when Canada was a leader in wireless communications. However, Nortel Networks is breaking apart, while high monthly fees mean cellular penetration is only middling compared to other industrial nations.

Sure, there’s Research in Motion, but otherwise “we have a bunch of mini-successes,” Randall Howard, a partner at Toronto’s Verdexus Capital Partners, told a meeting this week at MobileMonday, a networking group for mobile application developers.

He was moderating a panel discussion on Canadian mobile leadership, who sometimes weren’t optimistic.
“There was Nortel, now there’s RIM,” said Karna Gupta, CEO of security vendor Certicom Corp. of Mississauga, Ont. until Research in Motion recently bought it. But “in between there’s a lot of land.”
Unfortunately, he said, Canadians are far behind others in commercializing mobile opportunities. In particular, carriers have to push applications instead of competing on price.
“This race is a marathon and we ain’t at the front,” said Robert Ferchat, a former Bell Mobility CEO and former president of Nortel Networks who was just named chair of a mobile transaction processing startup.
If Canadians don’t become more aggressive, added Steven Woods, site director of Google Canada, “we are going to be a second-class community.”
On the other hand, Ferchat said that for entrepreneurs “this is the best year of your life,”
Sure there’s a recession, he said, but because of discontinuities it creates “there are more opportunities being created this year than ever before.”
So, he advised, look at what fundamentals are changing, discover how to take advantage of that and then decide how to motivate the people who work for or with you.
Gupta stressed the importance of developers creating a broad reach for their products. Think of the market opportunities in fast-growing mobile markets in China, India, Russia and Brazil, he said, which are more robust than North America.
And don’t re-invent the wheel, Ferchat added. Copy and plagerize [legally], from others or form partnerships, he said, and then make your product Canadian. “Where do you think (China-based telecom equipment maker) Huawei got its base?” he asked.
There was – as expected – criticism of federal foreign ownership policies that restrict innovation as well as a lack of tools and funding to encourage startups.
Wouldn’t it be nice, Howard wondered at one point, if Canada was the country leading mobile application and hardware makers wanted to launch their products. Yes, I thought, it would.
It was a thought-provoking evening. I welcome your thoughts: Is Canada behind other industrial nations in mobility innovation? If so, why?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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