As the wireless industry gathers for its annual meet-and-greet, investors are turning the klieg lights on Nokia ( NOK) and Motorola ( MOT). Wall Street has been right on board with the recovery story boosting these stocks in recent months. But now, tech fans want to see bold new products as two sector giants find themselves under increasing pressure from a brash field of upstart competitors. On Friday, Nokia slipped 74 cents to $20.03, while Motorola dropped 4 cents to $17. As always, the annual Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association conference in Atlanta will serve first and foremost as a showcase for the latest crop of wireless gizmos. If recent analyst assessments are right, this looks to be another banner year for the much-watched handset market. The expectations are especially high for Nokia and Motorola, the top two players in the industry. Rivals like SonyEricsson and Siemens as well as South Korea's LG and Samsung are making considerable headway with popular new offerings. That hasn't always been the case with the front-runners. At a European industry show in Hannover, Germany, just last week, Nokia introduced a new candy bar-shaped camera phone. Oddly, though, it failed to dazzle the crowd. Despite promises to change the look and feel of its new phones, Nokia hasn't broken the mold with its latest line. Of course, observers point out that consumers have been fickle with their wireless phone preferences, which in recent years have ranged from flat bars to flip-open clamshells and new sliders. But Nokia's apparent insistence on sticking with the block shape didn't score many points, say industry experts. Meanwhile, if Nokia is faulted for being too predictable, Motorola has been too unreliable.
Even though AT&T tried a last-minute bribe of promising 5,000 new U.S. jobs to help gain support for the deal, the Justice Department filed a complaint to fight the combination of the nation's No. 2 and No. 4 wireless carriers.