To continue my reflections on the week in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress (MWC), the event certainly proved once again to be one of the geek highlights of the year, with a show floor full of tablets, touchscreens, techniques and innovative applications. Blackberry (RIM) were making a big splash around the Playbook which looked…reasonable but the same as the other tablets on the streets trying to play catch up to the popular iPad. The company’s decision to not include native e-mail, calendar or contacts applications in its first operating system (OS) may have contributed to the poor reviews, but last week, it showcased the second iteration (OS 2.0) that had been announced in February. It still doesn’t have a complete messenger capability but is at least an improvement, and now offers support for SOME Android applications. Can’t help but feel that they need to stop playing catch-up and look for new innovation before getting completely left behind.
Speaking of new innovation, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note that is trying to blur the device segmentation lines. It’s a 5.3-inch hybrid tablet that can be used as a phone (not a bad idea—maybe they have something here?). Being an iPhone and iPad user myself, I think there is certainly a space for something the size of a Kindle (eReader), as people everywhere seem to be happy carrying them around. I can’t help but think that we may be going from lipstick-sized phones back to the early 90s-sized handset brick. So will it lead to a new generation of pay-as-you-go users who buy one, then revert to using it as a tablet but still have a desire for a pure “phone”?
Having one of its larger offices in my hometown, I felt a certain level of pride seeing Intel (“the sponsors of tomorrow”) at the show and demonstrating its ‘from device to the cloud’ innovation. The ‘Intel Inside’ tag was now being associated with two primary themes: a new smartphone built in partnership with Orange and the concept of augmented reality on the handset. The jointly developed smartphone, driven with the type of processing innovation we saw in PC chips ten years ago, was demonstrated using a graphics-intensive driving game—real time rendered onto a TV and mimicking the type of performance you would expect from a high-quality console gaming experience. Then, the booth jockey hit passers-by with a visually jaw-dropping demonstration of augmented reality. The device used its camera to identify the image it had been presented, then through the cloud, it fetched back striking live 3D imagery, video and adverts to explain what you were looking at. Go check it out—the demo video is on YouTube! Impressive to see some true leaps forward in technology and its applications.
Microsoft were keen to introduce its new handset to the crowd by challenging passers-by to take the “Windows Mobile Challenge”. The company threw down the gauntlet against popular Android and Apple smartphones on tasks such as sending email, attaching photos to messages and creating contacts. In reality, the biggest challenge being faced by Microsoft is attracting developers to build a comprehensive library of applications that can be used with the Windows OS. The OS blends together Xbox Live gaming, Zune multimedia, personal media (photos and videos), social media utilities, productivity tools and third-party apps, which are organized into categories called “Hubs.” But will the consumer trust it on a handheld device? Historically, you would hear murmurs of freezes, lock-outs and crashes, so fingers crossed that those fears have now gone.
It wouldn’t be possible to provide a small snapshot of the show floor without mentioning Android whose manifestation was popular, busy, fun and fresh. But it wasn’t just the ice-cream sandwiches and tube-slide that Android came to show off; in fact, the big message was about the ecosystem, and how through a growing army of worldwide developers, device vendors are thriving. The Google Mobile Blog recently quoted some fascinating figures relating to this Android phenomenon.
Securing the Handset – The BOD Conundrum
After talking to VMWare about its proposition for the show, an extremely helpful lead evangelist explained that the company’s major theme addressed how to keep enterprise IT in control of their user accounts. The Bring your Own Device (BOD) trend is continuing to grow at an enormous rate as users become increasingly drawn to a preferred device—and not necessarily the one they were issued by corporate IT. The biggest reluctance from users has to be that they don’t want to carry two handsets—one for work and one for personal, plus the device they have will also carry media and applications that a corporate–approved handset may not permit. VMWare have developed a HyperVisor client for mobile that securely partitions the corporate applications and content from the ‘leisure’ profiles on ‘any’ handset. I say ‘any’, but currently, it’s been launched for Motorola, Samsung and Nokia. The really useful side to this product is the ability for IT to remotely control the handset-based corporate client from a central web-based application, bringing a high level of admin-based security back under control.
Time to Celebrate a Successfully Executed Show
With a fresh new look and feel, clear strategy and positioning, over 185 pre-arranged meetings with clients, prospects, analysts, partners and the press—it warranted a celebration. Every night ‘Co’mptel invited passers-by and friends to informally join it for champagne and the best tapas in Barcelona! Timo Koistinen, senior vice president of Europe East, (seen here) was more than happy to kick off the celebrations.
The End for Fira Montjuïc
Up until 2006, this event had taken place in Cannes and was known as 3GSM World. Since then, the Fira Montjuïc had quite adequately taken on the mantle. Looking at the increase of attendees and now the broadening ecosystem of multi-vertical contributors and vendors, the GSMA has made the decision to up sticks and relocate to Fira de Barcelona Gran Via in order to provide approximately 50% more exhibition space. In addition to the usual lottery to get the prime exhibition spaces, the buzz around the event seemed varied, ranging from “well, it’s closer to the airport” to “it’s too far out of town”, but we’ll see. I look forward to another strong showing by Comptel in 2013.