It is often difficult to step back from the flow of news coming out from Barcelona but here's a quick take on the main announcements.
- new handset makers such as ACER are entering the mobile space highlighting the fact that boundaries between computers and mobile phones are being blurred. Toshiba, HP are already here and Dell or Lenovo could well follow. Will they succeed? Well they need to master not only the hardware but also the software, offer scalability/economies of scale, negotiate with operators and revamp their brands. This will not happen in one night but some of them have bold long-term objectives
- As always a great autumn/winter device collection from the usual suspects: Nokia E75, SE "Idou", LG Arena or Smasung Beat DJ. Despite few announcements (2 devices with Android OS), Google and Apple cast their shadow over the congress though. Apple because most phones were still compared to the iPhone even though the device was announced 2 years ago. If many visitors were disappointed not to see more Android handsets, one should bear in mind this is still the early days and that there is a strong support from the Open Handset Alliance. No doubt this is a long-term play and that Android is here to stay.
- Appstores are the new retailing/merchandizing paradigm. Many handset/OS vendors announced their own "vertical" solutions but operators also joined the dance such as Orange with its Application shop. The parntership between T-Mobile and OVI is one of the most interesting announcements at it shows that operators can also offer an "horizontal" layer and offer a large reach/distribution to developers. Not everybody will succeed but it is likely that both types of stores will co-exist.
At MWC, multiple companies have launched mobile application stores that seek to build upon Apple's iPhone success (Microsoft, Nokia, Orange, mPortico, Surfkitchen, Adtonic, PocketGear and others). These join existing announced app stores (including RIM, Google Android, Palm).
These are more than simple me-too initiatives.
Mobile app stores are not new. Palm, Handango and even Nokia with their Download! service pre-date Apple. Like the iPod, Apple was a follower -- rather than first mover -- that succeeded due to terrific execution and a clear strategy and market position. Apple benefits from the ease of commercial iPhone application distribution. Developers now prosper in a virtuous circle:
Next Monday the mobile/telecom industry will gather in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress. With 60,000 delegates expected, the Fiera is the largest European Congress and a bigger event in importance than CTIA. There will obvioulsy be discussions about the impact of the crisis but no doubt that the flow of innovation will overcome skepticism. If you want a wrap up of the three previous conferences, you can have a look on my personal blog here (for 2008), here (for 2007) and even here (for 2006; when the Congress moved from Cannes to Barcelona).