Mobile World Congress 2010 – wrap-up report

28 02 2010

As the dust settles once more in Barcelona, following the hectic Mobile World Congress 2010, here’s a quick run down on the highs and lows of this annual Telecom event.
Technology is now core in our lives – many people would rather lose their wallet than their mobile phone. It was therefore quite amusing to track the “nannie guidance and advice” being shared amongst members of the Mobile Monday crowd ahead of the show. Concerns for personal safety and theft were upper most for many members – the thought of heading out into the “robbers’ den” of Barcelona was driving many to hide under their beds or considering a virtual visit! “A return to Cannes or another city,” I hear many cry!!

Joking aside, the risk of phone/credit card/laptop theft is real and was being reported as soon as the mobile crowd hit the Ramblas and Fira. Such is the instant reporting and availability of “news” via blogs, message boards, emails and the like. The desire for instant news and communication dates as far back as 1883 when large sums were spent to create the world’s first electronic communication network – the Telegraph! It took an event like the Krakatoa’s eruption – which shocked the world – to underline the real revolution that the “new technology” was offering the world. Back then important news could be relayed in 3 hours around the globe through a system of electric signals, including a submarine telegraph cable and human relays. Today, depending on connection speeds it’s possible to send 10,000 personalised emails in 15 seconds – 1 minute 40 seconds depending on which service you use. It’s hard to imagine wanting any faster speeds than that! There was that story about a delivery pigeon being faster than a South African ADSL service – but I digress…
More on the Pigeon story link here.

Despite stories that many are still facing hardship due to the economic hardship brought on in 2009, attendance of the show remained healthy attracting 50k industry professionals.
Playing catch up in the device operating system segment, headline news was generated by Microsoft and their launch of their Windows Mobile 7 series. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled how Microsoft will bring together a series of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs. Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people: (Office, people, photos, Music/video, games, marketplace)
And for the first time they will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience on a mobile phone. Partners (including operators such as Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Telecom Italia, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers such as Dell, HP, LG, Samsung) have already started building phones; customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores by end 2010.

Certainly the launch cannot have been more timely for Microsoft. Gartner’s recent research confirms that Windows Mobile were the big losers in 2009. The report highlights how the software giant sold a million less devices than it did in 2008, and secured only 8.7pc market share. They can only hope for better growth with this new offering.

The battle in smartphones rages on with Nokia leading the market (45.1%) followed by RIM’s Blackberry hanging on by their fingernails with just 13.3% and now followed by Apple and the rest of the players. The iPhone sales phenomenon continues with sales of nearly 25 million as they snatch the third position in this market. There is no question that Apple is spearheading the digital media revolution with its’ revolutionary iPhone.

The Apple App store appears to have been the linchpin to driving its’ success as the promotion of iPhone continues to be seen on TV/news reports making it the most ubiquitous smartphone these days. The war is clearly not over, so at the end of the day, one hopes that the consumer will be the ultimate winner.

On 25 February 2010 the company celebrated that a staggering 10 billion songs had been downloaded from their iTunes Store. The 10 billionth customer was handsomely rewarded with a 10,000 USD iTune gift card.

Moving on to a quick review of the other mobile phone players – one of my favourites from 2009 were Samsung with their solar powered device. They did not disappoint.
Ahead of Microsoft, and going head to head with Apple, they have also stepped up to announce their new Bada OS (Bada means ocean in Korean) to complement their own line of smartphones. This new addition to Samsung’s mobile ecosystem claims to “enable developers to create applications for millions of new Samsung mobile phones”. It appears to be a combined hardware and software mobile device OS – the proffered benefit being performance and sleekness of design. I don’t know if the mobile world needs another proprietary operating system but the marketshare battle will continue.

Keynote first?
A surprise announcement was made during a keynote presentation – a first? – from BBC’s Director Erik Huggers. He explained how the UK broadcasting corporation will be launching a new range of smartphone applications to help their customers access their content. Keeping Apple happy, they will kick off in April 2010 with a BBC News iPhone app and follow this with similar apps for BlackBerry and Android. The BBC mobile site is currently the second most popular UK destination on the mobile internet, attracting more than six million visitors a month.

An unlikely keynote celebrity during the Mobile Entertainment & Lifestyle session at MWC, was Nick Rhodes keyboardist from Duran Duran. The 1970-80’s new romantic band were famed for their ground breaking videos but Mobile technology?!! Nick joked that the band had dabbled with ring tones but not got into 3G systems nor used the current technology to any great extent or benefit. He is the Duran Duran band member most interested in driving better use of technology in the band and in the music industry at large. Today more people have mobile phones than pcs, so it made sense to explore what the new mobile technologies could offer his industry, Rhodes stated. Duran Duran are looking to collaborate with solution providers – so anyone with hot new ideas should make tracks to hunt down Mr Rhodes. Any takers to develop Duran Duran Apps?

Best give-away – hats off to Google
From mints, pens, phone bags, laptop cases, USB cards, digital frames you name it – at each show there is one exhibitor that lifts the bar on the best giveaway. The tip off of this hot gift leaked out too late for most, but for the lucky crowd who pre-registered or queued to attend the Android seminar they got the most desirable show give-away – a Nexus One phone.

Green Award
A Spanish, non-for-profit organisation, TRAGAMOVIL, promoted by ASIMELEC “wins” the green award for both their booth and mission at the show. First, their booth, created totally from (one assumes) recycled paper/cardboard – walls, tables, chairs. Second, this trade association who represent the main manufacturers and operators of mobile phones in Spain, specialises in collecting and recycling mobile phones and telecom equipment.
TRAGAMOVIL has contributed to sustainable development by collecting and recycling 2,600 tons of waste, which would have otherwise ended up in landfill. Awareness-raising campaigns have resulted in greater numbers of end-users to hand over their mobile phones.

GSMA

The story that generated the biggest buzz around the show was that from GSMA. This industry association news focused on the Wholesale Applications Community (perhaps unwisely known as WAC), to create an open ecosystem for the creation of applications that are not device, OS or operator-specific. For customers this means a broader choice of innovative applications and services available on a wider choice of devices than ever before.
http://www.wholesaleappcommunity.com/ Check next year to learn of progress?

Missing Heavyweights ?

Some heavy weights missing from the main expo halls were Nokia and Hewlett Packard. Both companies appeared to dilute their physical presence at the show in favour of hosting their own private club activities in other parts of the city.

HP's club Barcelona - view from the topBoth companies still participated in issuing news releases. HP attempted to beat the rush with their early announcement about enhancements to their subscriber data management portfolio. HP consolidates subscriber data in the network allowing service providers to create more personalized services. This capability is even more important as networks evolve from 3G (third generation) to 4G and LTE. With faster networks and smarter devices, data traffic and service options are rapidly increasing.

Whilst Nokia shared details of their plans to merge platforms with Intel by combining their Maemo and Moblin Linux-based software platforms to create a unified platform – MeeGo. This will offer a software platform that will work across multiple devices, from connected TVs to in-car infotainment systems, netbooks, smartphones and to multimedia products and iPad-like tablets.

Whether or not this has been a successful strategy or otherwise will no doubt be demonstrated by whether these and others(such as LG) are back in the Fira next year.

Footnote:

GSMA MWC Gala Awards Upset: Appealing to the attending baby boomer sector, the organisers secured the presence of 80’s hit rock group Duran Duran to entertain their Gala Award crowd. What drove the organisers to make this selection remains a mystery. MWC is still a heavily male dominated show but fill their gala award party headline entertainment with the biggest heart throb band rather than Dire straits or Neil Young or perhaps even Blondie… Was the strategy to attract more women, or piss off attendee’s girlfriends or wives! It’s been reported that the decision definitely upset a few including the Editor and Founder of GoMo News, who had to sadly miss the 2010 show due to cancer.

p.s GSMA Mobile Awards 2010 –Click here if you’re interested to learn who the Awards winners were at the 2010 event.

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Different perspective

Other blog MWC 2010 reports that may be of interest:

WorldMate CEO blog – debates how CA and the west is “owning” mobile power race.

VisionMobile‘s Research Director, Andreas Constantinou looks at what really matters – the under-the-radar trends that will make the biggest impact in the next two years.

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