July 25, 2014

34 Weeks of OHA #27

Company Name: Sprint Nextel

How the OHA site classifies them: Mobile Operator

What the OHA site says about them: Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services including the fastest and largest national mobile broadband network, a broad portfolio of devices and an wide array of applications, which enable customers to do the things that matter the most to them instantly and on the go – at SprintSpeed™.

(I can’t believe them put that “™” after SprintSpeed. That’s a joke, right? As if it’s such a kick-ass motto/buzzword that other compaies are lining up to take it. Who’s going to want to infringe? A running shoe company? I think Nike’s doing just fine with its own marketing, thanks. SprintSpeed sounds like something a low-rent anime character would cry out just before he leaps into action.

Sprint’s need to add the trademark symbol to the term in this context makes me think that it’s a paranoid child, lamely doing whatever it can to hang on to its busted-ass toy, afraid one of the other kids might want to steal it. This is the mentality of an American mobile provider.)

What they do: Currently the third largest mobile carrier in the U.S. with 52.8 million customers. ‘Just Sprint’ and ‘Just Nextel’ joined up when the former acquired the latter in 2005 for $35 billion. The former started off as the Brown Telephone Company in Abilene Texas, whic after a long and storied history received the Sprint name when they started marketing switched landline services in the late 70s. Nextel was started as a cellular comany called FleetCall in the late 80s by a Washington D.C. Communications attorney; it changed its name in 1993. Nextel is known for its ‘push-to-talk’ service, which is kinda like walkie-talkies and other archaic systems in which one can’t talk and listen at the same time. The two came together in an explosion of love, electromagnetic communication, and money sometime around 2005.

Now, a few years later, Sprint Nextel excels at losing money and customers. Lots of money: $344 million in the second quarter. And losts of customers: 2.1 million in the same time period. In 2008, Sprint wrote off some $29.7 resulting from impairment of its goodwill (my goodwill will cost you a buck-fifty). They have one of the largest customer churn rates going, and has the worst customer reputation in the business. Fitch Ratings has cut Sprint’s credit rating to Junk Status, which, oddly enough, is exactly the same as mine, and that’s pretty hurtin’.

There’s many a rumour out there that Sprint is looking to unload Nextel; not sure that’s gonna help, if poor customer service is the cause of their woes.

What they bring to OHA and Android:

Despite how much Sprint seems to be sucking right now, consider the following two factoids:

1.They will be the first to offer the next-gen, cooler-than-hell, HTC Touch products, the Diamond and the Pro. And, unlike Verizon they’re leaving the handsets unmodified and up to full specs.

2.They’ve released the Instinct, which ain’t too bad a product, all things considered. And it seems to be doing very well for them.
Sprint is really busting out some good handsets, here. Obviously there’s a bit of iPhone and AT&T envy here, but I wonder if there isn’t something more going on.

I’m working on a theory here, one which may bode well for Sprint as well as that other falling-apart-quickly OHA player, Motorola. My theory is that they’re both getting desperate and may be jumping for innovation in an effort to gain some glory. Playing things safe just isn’t working out for these guys. We’ve already heard that Motorola is depending heavily on Android for its revitalization. Perhaps Sprint is thinking along the same lines?

Sprint’s President of Strategic Planning and Corporate Initiative, Keith Cowan, delivered a blurb for the OHA quotes page that gives me a lot of hope. It’s just a little more substantial thant the average executive lip service:

Sprint continues to be a catalyst for transforming the mobile environment into one that is more open and customer-driven. Our participation in the Open Handset Alliance is a clear indication of Sprint’s commitment to breaking down barriers and enabling developers to create and deliver applications that customers want. This new mobile ecosystem model will drive innovation, personalize the mobile experience and ultimately increase wireless data usage.

I don’t know about sprint “continuing to be a catalyst…” but if they want to start to be a catalyst, I welcome it. The desperate risk-takers could be very good for Android. And, Android could be very good for the desperate.