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.
We are now only a few weeks away from Mobile World Congress, historically the pre-eminent event of the mobile industry and now one of the largest global events across all industries. Last year’s even attracted almost 90,000 attendees from over 200 countries. The event draws representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors, content owners and governments from across the world. Executives from all industries pay attention to products demonstrated and announcements made. While “mobile” remains in the event title, last year’s event marked a changing of the guard: The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook reflected that shift away from the event’s telecom roots. This year that shift will be even more pronounced as the reign of mobility gives way to the new rule of connectivity. Yes, we are mobile but the key is that while we are roaming the halls at work or the streets of a foreign city, we remain connected to the people and things we want and need to interact with.
Once again, the mobile world is getting ready for the most important mobile event of the year, the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which will take place in Barcelona from March 2 to 5. In my role as analyst with a focus on CIO requirements, I expect the following themes to dominate this year's show:
Everybody will talk about data — and many about data privacy. The long-anticipated marriage between big data and mobility is finally happening. I expect just about every vendor at MWC will claim a stake in these mobile data wedding arrangements. However, many big data business models remain building sites, and it remains far from clear which players will benefit via which types of business models. The growing awareness of regulatory constraints on the use of customer data as well as what the Financial Times recently called the "creepiness quotient", i.e., hyper-personalized advertising, further complicate a convincing business model for mobile analytics on a mass scale. Despite all the hype, mobile data is one of the must-focus areas for CIOs who attend MWC.
Some 80,000 visitors ventured to Barcelona to attend the annual congregation for the mobile-minded, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). Long gone are the days when one single theme dominated the show. My main impression of MWC was that compared with last year, there was surprisingly little true news. I see evolution not revolution, which is somewhat odd as the overall business environment is clearly changing faster than ever.
Of course, everybody again claimed that they are active in the obligatory fields of cloud, analytics, and customer experience. However, if anything, I feel this convergence of marketing messages creates too many platitudes and undermines the practical use case scenarios that define the mobile mind shift. I went to MWC with several questionsin mind, and my main takeaways of MWC are that:
The central theme of Mobile World Congress 2014 for me was clearly Connected Living. I’ve been attending Mobile World Congress for quite some time — 2006 was my first, the year that it moved to Barcelona from Cannes. And, this year felt different. No longer did the event feel dominated by handset manufacturers and equipment providers. Mobile World Congress is no longer a telecom event; it is clearly a mobile event. Mobility has penetrated every industry and every aspect of life, and that diversity is now clearly felt at the show. The large presence of car manufacturers and the buzz around Facebook indicate a definitive changing of the guard. That shift is ongoing. The proliferation of connected devices, the explosion of over-the-top services and the rise of the data economy will continue to shape the industry. But for me, this year I felt excitement around our new connected lives.
Instead of launching their new flagship device at a separate event like last year, Samsung decided to leverage Mobile World Congress to cast a shadow on some other devices’ announcements. Expectations have been high in the past two weeks about what Samsung could announce. And while the atmosphere was not as crazy and irrational as for an Apple announcement, you could still feel today in Barcelona that expectations have been raised for the new smartphone sales leader.
As I pointed out in my post two weeks ago on what to expect at MWC, the Barcelona trade show is strongly biased on hardware specs. No exception to the rule here. The Samsung Galaxy S5 looks very promising on that front: faster, thinner, better battery and camera, etc. What’s more differentiating here is the positioning of the S5 as a fitness phone. It comes with a growing range of smart wearables, such as the Gear Fit – a fitness wristband with a curved screen – with a nice design. This is a way for Samsung to better engage users, especially when used in conjunction with new services like the enhanced S Health 3.0. It offers more tools to help people stay fit and well – providing a comprehensive personal fitness tracker to help users monitor and manage their behavior, along with additional tools including a pedometer, diet and exercise records, and a new, built-in heart rate monitor. Galaxy S5 users can further customize their experience with an enriched third-party app ecosystem and the ability to pair with next-generation Gear products for real-time fitness coaching.
Last year, when attending my tenth Congress in a row, I wrote that MWC 2013 would be more global and more disruptive than ever before. I believe the same will be true this year, with 2014 bringing a very important milestone in the shift to mobile: an install base of more than 2 billion smartphones globally. Mobile is transforming every industry by offering global reach and the ability to offer contextual services. That’s why we'll see many more marketers, agencies, business executives, and strategists attend the traditional telecom show.
Gone are the days when MWC was about operators' supremacy. As my colleague Dan Bieler summed it up in this blog post, telcos are increasingly being backed into a corner. I still remember this quote from Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Vodafone, in the Financial Times in November 2007: “Just the simple fact we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us.” Really? Well, in the meantime, Apple and Google have created two powerful mobile platforms that have disrupted entire industries and enabled new entrants to connect directly to customers.
From a marketing and strategy perspective, I'd categorize the likely announcements in three main areas:
1) The Asian Device Spec Fashion Week: Getting Lost In Device Translation
Mobility is becoming pervasive in the enterprise. Smart devices, including wearables, are appearing in all sectors, both in developed and emerging markets. Businesses that fail to prepare for the mobile mind shift risk losing their competitive edge. I hope this year’s Mobile World Congress, which kicks off on February 24, will emphasize the interaction between business processes and mobility — in addition to the traditional gadgets.
I focus primarily on themes relating to the connected business and social collaboration, and I will travel to the world’s leading mobile event in Barcelona to gain new insights into several questions in these areas:
In light of my expectations (http://goo.gl/ZIU9d), Mobile World Congress contained few real surprises this year. This is not to say that MWC was boring: It provided valuable insights into the state of the mobile market from an enterprise perspective:
No single theme dominated. However, it felt as if everybody was talking about some combination of cloud, mobility, and big data. Many providers and vendors added the theme of customer experience to the mix and seasoned it with many acronyms. Unfortunately, in most cases this was not enough to trigger real excitement. The lack of a single new hot trend indicates that the mobile industry is maturing. Mobility has arrived center stage.
Most vendors are addressing consumerization only in the context of BYOD. In my view, BYOD is only one aspect of consumerization. I believe we will see the broader impact of consumerization in the near future. Consumers increasingly expect to work in a manner reflecting communication methods that are familiar in the context of friends and family. Also, consumers are increasingly asking to work when and where they want. Although some companies, including Yahoo (good luck!), are reintroducing the traditional concept of "the team works in the office," the overall trend is toward a more fragmented and consumerized working environment. In turn, this offers potential for mobile workplace solutions.
It’s that time of the year: the pilgrimage to the Mobile Mecca, Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona. This is my 10th pilgrimage in a row and, needless to say, the event has changed tremendously over the past few years – from 3GSM in Cannes to the new venue in Barcelona this year. While CTIA is still very US-centric and CES is still a lot about TVs, MWC is really the only global mobile event with a strong presence of operators and handset manufacturers from all over the world. Every year the show becomes not only more global, but also more open to new categories of players — such as advertisers and developers — willing to make the most of mobile technologies, and more open to connected devices that go far beyond the traditional definition of a mobile phone. Markets are colliding and mobile innovation is at the center of these upheavals. MWC used to be a telecom show focusing mainly on mobile technologies, but the event is now bringing together people from every industry.
In the light of today’s first announcements, here is my take on how to put in perspective the announcements to be made at MWC 2013 in the coming days: