SAN FRANCISCO -- Atish Gude, the executive leading Sprint Nextel's WiMax intiative, called Xohm, was the show's final keynote speaker today.
Gude painted a broad overview of WiMax for the crowd, which mostly consisted of people from the cellular industry.
He spent a lot of time explaining how WiMax is different than the existing wireless broadband services that cellular carriers use today.
The answer, in part, is the business model.
Gude said Sprint wants to build an ecosystem of players that include the consumer electronics industry and developers. The important thing is that the network is open to allow everyone in who wants to participate.
"The marketplace will decide what wins and loses," he said.
The mantra is different than what wireless carriers in the U.S. today. They want tight controls on the network so that they don't become simply a dumb pipe. I wrote about this in today's paper; one of Facebook's founder really launched the topic Wednesday during his keynote, arguing that carriers need to become an open platform that welcomes development.
"It makes it really hard in the 3G world to open up platforms, not to say it can't be done and there's been progress," he said, "but we are very committed to opening up APIs. We are absolutely committed to opening up the APIs and investing in a platform, and really making innovation happen in the wireless space."
He said it won't be a dumb pipe -- it will be a very smart one.
There is a lot of work to be done still. For instance, Gude said that in order for a portable DVD player to connect to the Internet over WiMax, the user interface needs work. Today, there are only four buttons -- start, stop, fast forward and rewind a movie. He asked how are you supposed to search for a movie title with just those four buttons?
He hopes someone in the development world will figure it out.