I remember the first time I attended 3GSM in Cannes: It was primarily a B2B telecoms trade show and centered on DVB-H, WiMAX, and other technology-centric acronyms. Fast-forward 11 years, and Mobile World Congress (MWC) will be the center of the business world for a couple of days (March 2 to 5). Some things don’t change: We will continue to hear too much about technology. Simply ignore the hype, especially around 5G; it will have no impact at all on your marketing strategy for the next five years!
However, the list of keynote speakers is a good indication of what MWC has become: a priority event for leaders willing to transform their businesses. The CEOs of Facebook, Renault-Nissan, SAP, MasterCard, and BBVA will be speaking, and more than 4,500 CEOs will be among the 85,000 attendees (only 25% of which are from operators). It is fascinating to see how mobile has changed the world in the past 10 years — not just in the way that we live and communicate but also in terms of disrupting every business. I strongly believe that mobile will have a bigger impact than the PC or Web revolutions. Why?
First, mobile is the fastest and most ubiquitous technology ever to spread globally. People in Asia and Africa are skipping the PC Internet and going direct to mobile phones; they’re the ultimate convergent device and often the only way to reach people in rural areas. As Andreessen Horowitz's Benedict Evans put it, mobile is “eating the world”. It has already cannibalized several markets, such as cameras, video recorders, and GPS, and is now disrupting entire industries, changing the game for payments, health, and education, especially in emerging countries. Second, mobile is the bridge to the physical world. It is not just another “subdigital” channel. This alone has a huge impact on business models. Last, mobile is a catalyst for business transformation.
I attended this year’s Nokia World in Abu Dhabi on October 22 and 23 — perhaps the last one that Nokia will host to showcase its devices (Microsoft wants to acquire Nokia’s device and services business). And it seems that Nokia saved its best for last. The company announced its entry into the loosely-defined phablet category (smart devices with diagonal screen size of more than 5 inches but less than 7 inches) with two devices: a top-of-the-line flagship device, the Lumia 1520, and a more affordable version, the Lumia 1320. It also announced its first tablet, the Lumia 2520. It also launched three new Asha devices: Asha 500, Asha 502, and Asha 503. However, Nokia has neither announced the release date for its new devices nor identified which operators will carry them.
The event tag line was “Innovation Reinvented,” and Nokia did demonstrate many innovations, especially around imaging software. It launched new apps like the Nokia Camera, which combines Smart Camera and Pro Camera apps; Refocus, which adds Lytro-like variable depth of field; Storyteller, which integrates photos and videos onto HERE maps; and Beamer, which shares Lumia’s screen in real time over Wi-Fi or cellular networks.