Back From My Pilgrimage To Mobile’s Mecca

Once again, I spent a couple of days in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (MWC). 

With 60,000 visitors (10,000 more than last year) — including an amazing 12,000 developers (!), 3,000 CEOs, and 2,900 journalists — MWC is the place to be for anyone wanting to make the most of mobile technologies.

Year after year, it is interesting to see how the show is becoming more global, more open to non-telecom players (advertisers, developers, etc.), and more open to connected devices other than just phones.

While it is difficult to summarize all the news and announcements, here are my key takeaways from MWC 2011:

  • Android, Android, Android.Google’s Android stand was the hit of MWC this year. Why? Very clever marketing: It was located in the main hall away from all the other players in the App Planet hall; it had a “cool” bar with animations; the Android robot logo was all over the place; and it featured interesting demonstrations from startups and key players. Google’s Android was helped by Apple’s absence and the lack of a serious upgrade to Windows Phone 7, unlike last year. Of course, the Nokia-Microsoft deal came up in most conversations. Forrester has already published its take on the strategic implications of this key announcement (clients can read it here). As my colleague Charles Golvin sums it up: “Nokia hopes to produce its first Windows Phone in 2011, but it will not bring a significant portfolio to the market in volume until 2012 — a lifetime in today’s smartphone market.” With 300,000 Android phone activations per day and 170 Android-based handsets currently available from 27 vendors, Android is definitely getting a lot of traction. 
  • Tablets, smartphones, and the impact of connected devices.Many new tablets had already been announced at CES in Las Vegas, but this is a brand-new topic for MWC. There were many demonstrations from all the device manufacturers: HP’s TouchPad; HTC’s Flyer; LG’s Optimus Pad; Motorola’s XOOM; RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook;Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2; and others. As always, device manufacturers showcased their latest smartphones, including HP’s Veer, an impressive range from HTC, a 3D device from LG, and Sony-Ericsson’s Xperia Play. The rise of connected devices has numerous implications: How will operators alleviate network congestion? When will they launch data connectivity independent of the devices? How will they provide a seamless and continuously connected experience across many devices? Many of these questions were also debated at this year’s GSMA conference. 
  • NFC, NFC, NFC.A few new Near Field Communications (NFC) devices were even announced, with the main focus on Samsung’s Galaxy S2 and Wave 578; it’s clear that devices from the other main brands will follow in 2011. After many years, we will finally see NFC moving away from the trial stage. Operators have decided to partner to push the technology and break the chicken-and-egg issue. Orange is particularly active in the space, while Deutsche Telekom has just announced NFC mobile wallet rollouts. We’re still years away from anything mainstream, but mobile payments are entering a disruptive era. However, NFC is not just about mobile payments; it is about tying together mobile marketing, loyalty, and payments. In his keynote, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated that, “NFC should revolutionize electronic commerce as well as payments.” This article in NFC Times provides a good summary.

There were plenty of other hot topics and key announcements this year, such as 3D; location-based services; mobile health; in-car mobile solutions; and the role of telecom stakeholders in the mobile marketing value chain — exemplified by Gemalto’s interactive SMS offering, Deutsche Telekom’s partnership with Out There Media, and Alcatel-Lucent’s deal with Tigo to introduce permission- and preference-based mobile advertising in Ghana.

My colleague Ian Fogg and I will shortly publish reports analyzing the key announcements. With my colleague Julie Ask, I will also host a teleconference on March 10 that puts these announcements into the context of the key mobile trends for 2011. Clients can register for the teleconference here.

And that’s not all! I will also host a webinar on March 10. In this webinar, I will: 1) provide insight into the mobile trends shaping the European market in 2011; 2) showcase how other global leaders are capitalizing on these mobile trends; and 3) share how you can plan and optimize your mobile strategy to improve ROI. You can register for the webinar here.

Did you attend MWC? What were your impressions and key takeaways? Share them in the comments!