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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u2 Video Montage from Nice Concert

20 07 2009

Here is sampler from key highlights at the U2 360 degree Nice concert. Try and catch the full show if you are lucky to obtain a ticket for the remaining up-coming shows.

The Mobile Phone - the must have at any show

The Mobile Phone - the must have at any show

Does technology improve our lives ? In this example, a resounding big YES. Technology has allowed thousands of fans to book tickets from far and wide. Via numerous web sites, phone/mobile services ahead of the show, thousands have shared their excitement, shared news and gossip and arranged joint travel to the show (to reduce, albeit, their carbon footprint contribution). At the show many people were able to shoot photos/video and immediately share via MMS or upload to websites! Such is the power of mobile phones these days. The power of new social media sites such as Facebook are now offering interesting new apps to go one step further and reverse the flow of photo sharing.
Mobimii has launched a service on Facebook which allows users to send photos from their Facebook profiles. By integrating Facebook’s own photo-sharing options, Pix2Fone lets you send photos from your Facebook album to your mobile phone, or to the cell phones of your Facebook friends. No wonder BlackBerry signed up to be a U2’s tour sponsor.

Departing U2's Nice Concert - start spreading the word!

Departing U2's Nice Concert - start spreading the word!

Finally, post show, the google’s search engine will attest to the thousands of sites that carry concert review (this blog included!), discussions on the final set, backstage gossip, fund raising achievements, photos, videos (let’s hear it for YouTube!), fan feedback and more. Instant gratification to share, learn and debate. Something that would have been impossible only a few years ago.

oes technology





U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

17 07 2009

Rejoice – it was a beautiful day – U2 360° tour, Nice, France July 2009

Pre-show build-up
15 July, 2009, will find U2 singing at the Parc des Sports Charles Ehrmann/Stade Nikaia, Nice, France in support of their 360° tour. This tour was launched to support its’ 2009 album, “No Line on the Horizon” and will notch up to 90-100 cities during the two year touring period 2009-2010. The tour’s name is based on the unique stage structure it will build at each event – offering its’ audience a 360 degree view* (*only 180 degree at some locations) – claimed to be a first.

U2 "Claw" Nice

U2 "Claw" Nice

In the quest to achieve marketing perfection to promote such a mega rock concert, U2 certainly have all the bases covered. First, having the lead sponsor, Blackberry (previous sponsor having been Apple), in these days of social media connectivity, is not a bad start. Whilst great for promotional use and for links with “Facebook” and the like, to stimulate pre-show excitement, its’ not exactly a vendor one would normally associate with “Rock N Roll”.

Having said that, “times are a changing…” the “de rigueur” item at any gig these days seems to be a mobile with stellar camera/video features… Not that Bono was amused, telling earlier attendees “put your xxxx camera down, this is a concert…” Second, having an amazing web site with all the right ingredients was a sure way to pull in one’s faithful fans (see http://www.u2.com/tour/index/) – U2 web membership offering amongst other goodies, pre-show priority booking, free music downloads, news and gossip leading up to the show – a package that helped paved the way to key support and ticket bookings.
Here’s a pre-show report on my observations leading up to the U2 concert in Nice, 15 July 2009, followed by my experience at attending this “most beautiful” show.

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

Sponsor: BlackBerry expresses its' love!*

The hype prior to the show was intense – the new 360 degree show – promised to deliver a show, like no other music extravaganza. There would be 50,000 tickets going on sale on 30 March 09, with a per centage of low cost 30 euro tickets. Normal French outlets along with international websites were lined up for the sales day – but sadly technology let the show down. Similar issues occurred at the Dutch event with 0900 paid service tel numbers being unreachable.
Many young people lined up outside FNAC and other outlets, to be first in line to secure those low cost tickets. Once the tickets were released, the demand online to purchase tickets was immense. The FNAC outlets could not get connected and by the time they could process an order, all the lower cost tickets were sold – in less than 20 minutes. Sadly for two young girls that had lined up all night, they could not afford the higher priced tickets and so left ticketless and in tears. Luckily we had secured two tickets via a French corporate purchase scheme for standing only places (seats being unavailable). However, we also tried to purchase further tickets for friends on the ticket release date. The online purchase route was a nightmare, trying all day – the key websites were just jammed, unresponsive and it was impossible to make a request. Finally in the early evening, a connection was finally made and two further tickets confirmed – many others were unlucky. My conclusion, it was a black day for technology. However, the band had more luck in Spain where 97,000 tickets sold out in 54 minutes – a Spanish record.

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

U2 Massive stage lighting and sound*

Having recently attended a show at the Nice, Stade Nikaia that only attracted around 8,000 people, it was tough to find a parking place, so we anticipated that parking was going to be a big issue for the U2 event. The parking availability near the stadium is around 10,000, but with 50,000 + expected, the roads, and every available parking slot for miles around would be jammed. Living in a rural village, bus transportation was a non starter so creative thinking was required. Those of you who may live in the Nice region, will know that taxis in this area are some of the most expensive in the world. Nevertheless, a taxi was booked and the cost would be shared between 4 friends – the total would exceed our ticket prices, but we felt we contributed to being a little “green” rather than clogging the roads with 2 more cars. Information on access to the show was non-existent. Once on the motorway leading to the stadium there was no information on a key closed motor exit to access the show. Certainly our normal “on the ball” driver, had no idea what was happening. As a result, a major traffic jam took place, and a journey that would typically take 30 minutes, stretched to 2 hours, arriving at 19.00h – so much for our great plan to arrive early… The time spent hunting on the internet to determine the best route, had failed us.

It was impossible for our taxi to get close to the stadium, so we jumped out just off the motorway ramp and walked the remaining 1000 meters. It appeared that many others had a same idea as we noted taxis arriving from Cannes, Monaco and Nice. The much heralded 360° staging, was looming in the early evening sky looking like a large tarantula. In reality the design was something akin to a space rocket station. Resting on four enormous moss green painted legs, orange satellite plates adorning the structure (like buttons), a large rocket shape thrusting through the middle and an inner grey body core that would be the pinnacle of the video wall and entertainment. The inspiration for the 58 meters by 47 meters (190 feet by 154 feet) and 50 meters (164 feet) tall “space rocket” design, nicknamed “the Claw”, came from the landmark Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.

It was an amazing work of art and engineering. The big question that lay with me was why did U2 go to so much expense to build such a superb staging, only to perform ONE show. With the Nice capacity at only around 50,000 would it not have been possible to repeat the show 2 or 3 times in the same week to amortize the costs? With Nice’s location being in easy reach for many by car (Marseille, Lyon, Milan etc), not to mention a simple hop using low cost airlines from around Europe, it could have been a way to deflect criticisms on wastage and costs. One should note that U2 are buying carbon offsets in relation to this tour.

Moving on. As one approached the stadium, our group was horrified to see the amount of rubbish strewn on the floor at only 19.00h. There were very few bin skips, and those that had been provided were already full. With U2’s interest and commitment to the environment, it would not have been difficult for their management team to insist that a larger number of bins be provided for SORTED garbage (especially as the majority of rubbish was plastic bottles and cans). It would also save on the huge clean up costs that are associated with these events. We made our way over through the debris and through the security and ticket check. We noted ticket scalpers were out in force, but business looked thin. We heard that many had to drop their prices to well below the ticket value – some as low as 20 Euros – so the credit crunch was hitting a normally vibrant market, not a bad thing.

U2 360° tour – Nice Concert review
– including contributor, Rich
Just after 20:00 Snow Patrol took the stage in the bright evening sun. A light sea breeze blew across the stadium, cooling the awaiting heated crowd.

Judging by the reported Barcelona set list, Snow Patrol played some different songs and a different order… Launching into “If there’s a Rocket tie me to it” (perhaps linked to U2s space references and that the following week was the 40th moon landing anniversary) from their latest “Hundred Million Suns” and quickly following with Chocolate and Hands Open. Engaging the crowd, the band exuded confidence and kept the intensity going for their full set. The sun was finally on the Baou de Saint – Jeannet cliff face as they closed with “Open Your Eyes” and “You’re all I have”.

After a lengthy pause to finalize the preparations for the U2 extravaganza, the volume came up on Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man. Shortly after, U2 took the stage firing off three songs from the new album in rapid succession: “Breathe” and “No Line on the Horizon” and “Get on Your Boots”.

An intense two hour set ensued comprising a best of the last twenty years of the U2 catalog, back to War (Sunday Bloody Sunday), three from Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum (Desire), and to more recent albums. (Find the full set list at :-http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/u2/2009/nikaia-nice-france-53d65ba9.html).

As the darkness fell, the full glory of the stage production was revealed with a massive “Beautiful Day” with the over-stage video screen splitting and dropping to form a part lighting, part screen hanging cone. Bono’s stage patter was subtitled in French through part of the show allowing the predominantly French crowd to follow along more easily. Bono told the crowd how the Cote D’Azur was the most beautiful coast in the world and that all the band were happy to have their “second homes” here. He also thanked many locals including the people who served him in bars and “those that didn’t serve us!”.

The multi-screen videos also allowed for some very cool layering and movement effects and occasionally morphed into pure video effects. During a dance remix of “I’ll Go Crazy” the band’s faces moved in and out rhythmically. Larry Mullen Jr was able to get out from behind the kit and walk the ramp around the front of the stage with a Tom Tom.

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

Sporting U2 Mask Aung San Suu Kyi

U2 used their show to remind the world of the plight of Burma’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For those fan’s that studied the U2 website ahead of the concert, some had responded to U2’s invitation to download a mask of Aung San Suu Kyi and wear it when the band played “Walk on” – a song written for her. Mask wearing appeared to be thin on the ground in our area, but Bono lead a group of people around the stage, masks in hand. (See this link for more details :- http://www.u2.com/stream/article/display/id/4770.

The imperturbable Edge on guitar appeared to be sporting a different axe for each song. He progressed through Gibsons, Fender Strats and Telecasters as well as an acoustic guitar and also played piano while wearing his guitar.

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam walks the bridge*

Adam Clayton appeared to be playing a Gibson hollow-body bass throughout the set. Both the Edge and Clayton also took their turns playing, walking and running on the stage ramps and moving bridges. Bono played his Gretsch Green/Irish Falcon late in the set.

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

U2 promotes plight of Aung San Suu Sku*

Another interjection from Bono: First to promote the ONE campaign that he avidly supports. Apparently they had been signing up support outside the stadium – something most managed to miss. However, one lucky couple’s kissing image, made after their donation, will be electronically sent out to space, courtesy of U2. Second, Bono made a plea for donations to help another fundraising initiative that will benefit a water, health and hygiene project in Liberia, a scheme administered by Africare. The scheme will increase access to safe drinking water and improve sanitation and hygiene for up to 7,000. A UK telephone number was flashed on the giant screen, and Bono urged fans to dial the number – that would cost only 11 cents. Few in our area responded – most likely as the request was made in English…

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

Descending Video Wall lights up fans*

U2 didn’t hesitate to tinker with the songs and change arrangements from the recordings. Three snippets were added into songs including “Stand by Me” on “I Still haven’t Found What I’m looking for”, a Michael Jackson medley (led by Billie Jean) at the end of “Desire”, and “Here Comes the Sun” featured at the end of Beautiful Day.

For the encores the set changed into blue/green tones, shown on the video screens as a kind of underwater effect. Bono sang into a dangling microphone reminiscent of a ship’s control as the band continued through Ultraviolet, With our Without You, Moment of Surrender and a short tribute to “You’ll never walk alone” before bidding a final good night.

Overall it is was an intense and crowd-pleasing show from this Irish foursome.

Within 5 minutes of the band leaving the immense stage structure, a large group comprising key engineering crew were busy dismantling the “space rocket” staging for onward transportation to the next show (Berlin).

The amazing claw with video core

The amazing claw with video core

*Photos by Pierre Masse – merci!
Other photographs by Sandra Arthur, Rich Arthur