Almost 50,000 mobile execs descended on Barcelona last week, and Mobile Business Briefing (MBB) – in the guise of the event’s official Show Daily – reported on all the major news developments.
As a starter dish to a more comprehensive analysis article later this week reviewing the major trends of the show, here’s my picks of the top ten news stories of the 2010 Mobile World Congress.
A number of criteria were used in the selection of these stories; hits generated on the MBB site, the potential to cause an industry shakeup, and good old-fashioned ‘newsworthiness’ (as measured unscientifically by me).
All these stories can also be found in the full digital editions of the 2010 GSMA Mobile World Congress Show Dailies. Check them out here.
1) Mobile operators unite on global apps platform
On the eve of Congress 24 of the world’s largest operators pushed through an agreement to create an open international applications platform; a unified challenge to disparate app environments dominated by the likes of Apple. Significantly, the Wholesale Applications Community includes the four members of the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL); Vodafone, China Mobile, SoftBank and Verizon Wireless (leaving some to question the future of JIL). WAC – as it has already been dubbed – didn’t reveal specific details on its plans, but will be one of the most eagerly watched industry movements of recent years.
2) Google embraces mobile
The Internet giant’s CEO Eric Schmidt provided the first ever evening keynote at Congress, and he used his time in the spotlight to push his company’s new ‘Mobile First’ strategy whilst vehemently denying that Google plans to reduce operators to little more than ‘dumb pipes.’ And Schmidt couldn’t resist the opportunity for a quick jibe at Apple, demonstrating that its own Android OS will run Adobe Systems’ Flash 10.1 technology. Indeed, Google’s presence was felt everywhere at Congress this year; from the numerous new Android handset announcements to intense operator discussion surrounding the company at other conference sessions.
3) Microsoft fights back in OS war
IT software behemoth Microsoft unveiled its much-anticipated Windows Mobile 7 operating system – dubbed Windows Phone 7 Series – in a move regarded by many as its last attempt to remain a major player in the mobile software space. Given that rumours prior to the launch had the vendor potentially unveiling its own hardware product (similar to Google’s Nexus One strategy), the initial response to Microsoft’s new OS was muted. With devices running Windows 7 not expected until Christmas, it could be too little too late.
4) Samsung makes waves with bada
One school of thought suggests that the last thing the mobile industry needs is yet another operating system. South Korean vendor Samsung disagrees, and unveiled its flagship new smartphone – Wave – at the beginning of Congress, the first to run its new bada platform. bada faces an uphill struggle in overcoming more established rivals such as Symbian, Android and Apple’s OS, but the Wave is an impressive device and the start of numerous smartphone products this year supporting Samsung’s new platform.
5) Verizon Wireless signals a new approach to VoIP threat
The decision by the largest US carrier to support Skype’s VoIP client on many new high-profile smartphones confirms a change of attitude among mobile operators who have historically been hostile towards VoIP providers. Verizon joins 3 in teaming with Skype, following a partnership between the European 3G focused operator and the VoIP provider a few years back. Now, who’s next?
6) Industry backs voice over LTE approach
Proponents of LTE tend to focus on the super-fast mobile data speeds the technology will enable. However, one often overlooked issue is the fact that question marks still remain over the best way to provide ‘basic’ voice and text messages via the next-generation networks. A group of very influential companies spent the week proclaiming that IMS is the way forward. Others disagreed, but, with the backing of such giants as Verizon, China Mobile and Ericsson, momentum is now firmly with the IMS-based VoLTE initiative.
7) Nokia and Intel merge Linux platforms
Nokia attempted to make up for its lack of handset announcements at this year’s Congress with the news it is to merge its Maemo platform with Intel’s own Linux OS, Moblin. The deal is expected to heighten competition in the mobile Linux space where the new ‘MeeGo’ platform will compete with the likes of Google’s Android. Interestingly, the new platform seems less focused on smartphones and more on mobile computers, netbooks and tablets.
8) Verizon bullish on LTE rollout and handsets
After stealing the show at last year’s Congress with its LTE plans, the US operator used this year’s event to state it is on track for commercial deployment in 2011. However, the most telling statement from CTO Dick Lynch was his belief that development of LTE handsets is ahead of schedule. Given the mobile industry’s history of delayed device availability for new technologies, Lynch’s comments (and those also of Ericsson’s CTO) were encouraging.
9) HTC and Telefonica strike exclusive ‘affordable’ smartphone deal
Taiwanese vendor HTC and European operator Telefonica have promised to sell smartphones at less than half the cost of other devices, in an attempt to bring smartphone connectivity at an affordable price. Given that smartphones today only account for around 16 percent of the total mobile device space, the move could give a further boost to the high-end handset space. Of greater interest to many, however, was the decision to base the new HTC Smart device on Qualcomm’s Brew platform, an OS that has lost status recently due to the hype surrounding Android.
10) Jordan’s Queen unveils ‘Education for All’ campaign
“Imagine the entire population of New York City, Shanghai, Los Angeles and Tokyo un-schooled and unskilled. 72 million. That’s how many children are out of school today around the world.” That was the message delivered by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan as she launched the 1GOAL campaign aiming to ensure every child in the world has the opportunity to go to school by 2015. 1GOAL has the support of operators serving more than one billion mobile users and will use mobile messaging, advertising and other applications to drive support. Claiming to be the largest-ever cause-related campaign, 1GOAL kicks off in time for the World Cup this summer.
Justin Springham, Managing Editor
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members