What to expect from the Mobile World Congress

  • Today’s Mobile World Congress is the culmination of a long journey for the mobility ecosystem
  • BYOD, Internet of Things, new OSes and wireless tech, new revenue streams for operators, to be discussed

What to expect from the Mobile World CongressPeriscope by Edwin Yapp

THE Mobile World Congress (MWC), the mobile industry’s largest and most glittering trade show, begins today.
 
Organized by the GSM Association and held at the Fira Gran Via on the coastal town of Barcelona in the province of Catalonia, the theme that will resonate in the normally quiet north-eastern city of Spain will be centered on what many industry pundits believe will be solutions and services that are aimed at driving more revenue for the global mobile ecosystem.
 
I last attended the MWC in 2006 when it was first hosted in Barcelona, after the event was shifted from its traditional Palais des Festivals, situated on the town of Cannes, in the southern part of the French Riviera.
 
A lot has changed since then. For starters, the MWC is the event where not only mobile and wireless industry-related companies make their major announcements, but is also now where traditional IT companies take the opportunity to do so too.

For example, chipmaker Intel, business software giant SAP and payment powerhouse Visa were not found a decade ago at the MWC, and only traditional telco infrastructure players such as Alcatel, Ericsson, and Siemens were present.
 
Also back in the day, MWC was perceived as a stodgy, highly technical, industry-centric trade show that only drew 25,000 people at most. Even its title then reflected this, as it was then called 3GSM World Congress – hardly sexy by any standards.
 
I also remember being one of the first Asian journalists who traveled to the MWC in 2003 to cover what people thought were boring announcements of products, services and trends, which no one wanted to read anyway. Furthermore, it never had the panache of, say, the Las Vegas-based Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which was even much more famous with the press corps than the MWC.

However, the industry has changed tremendously in the last six years. Today, the mobile business is arguably one of the most sexy businesses to be in, rivaling even the most high profile start-ups-driven technologies, which are often born in Silicon Valley.
 
Led by companies such as Apple, which gave us the first generation iPhone in 2007, followed by giants like Google, Samsung, Sony, and more recently, Chinese powerhouses Huawei and ZTE, the MWC is an event that can’t be missed.
 
What to expect from the Mobile World CongressIn the coming week, Digital News Asia will try to highlight some of the most important announcements and bring to you some analysis as we track the reports coming out of Barcelona.
 
As the Congress begins today, here is a snapshot of what some analysts and pundits believe are key trends that will be made outside of the usual slew of mobile product announcements that will undoubtedly dominate the headlines.
 
In his blog, Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester, said he believes that there will be a greater focus on business solutions, not just hardware and software exhibits.
 
Bieler notes that device hype will give way to a growing interest in over-the-top (OTT) services, despite recent device launches, including BlackBerry’s Z10 and Microsoft’s Surface. OTT service providers, defined as non-traditional operators, create Internet-based services by utilizing the bandwidth provided by more traditional operators.
 
“I do not expect device hype to dominate MWC 2013. Devices are nice, but let’s face it – most people care more about what they can do on their devices, and this means apps, rather than the devices per se.”
 
See related story on OTT Operators vs OTT: Learn to live and let live

Richard Absalom, an analyst with Ovum believes that the “consumerization” theme – the proliferation of consumer devices in the enterprise, will become an increasingly important issue. In the mobility space, he says this involves CIOs (chief information officers) attempting to address and embrace the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend.
 
The huge demand for mobility solutions that secure corporate data and improve productivity across multiple mobile platforms has led to considerable growth in the enterprise mobility management space over the past two years.
 
“Among all the demonstrations and new product announcements, we expect that the focus will be on moving the conversation beyond mobile device management to improving productivity through mobile enterprise app deployment.”
 
Absalom’s colleagues at Ovum also believe that two other issues will be watched" The first is the Internet of Things (IoT), which will include sub-topics like digital home services, urban infrastructure monitoring, the connected car and consumer electronics management. These areas will present operators as the essential partners for enterprises that want to deepen and extend their relationships with their customers.
 
What to expect from the Mobile World CongressThe second is the introduction of second-tier mobile platforms such as Jolla’s Sailfish OS, Ubuntu for phones, the recently launched BlackBerry 10 and perhaps arguably the most awaited new operating system, Mozilla’s Firefox OS.
 
Ovum believes the “third ecosystem” is still up for grabs and 2013 looks set to be defined by the battle for this position, with these new entrants going head-to-head with Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
 
One last point to note: The importance of Mozilla’s Firefox OS launch goes beyond just the fight for the third ecosystem, argues The Guardian in an advanced interview with Mozilla Corporation’s chief executive, Gary Kovacs.
 
Kovacs told the British broadsheet that Mozilla is not trying to “get in the middle of an operating system fight,” but rather it is trying to be the “catalyst to drive more development around the open web.”
 
Firefox OS is aimed at the developing world, where Apple's iOS and Google's Android have yet to capture the market and it will run on handsets made by Chinese companies ZTE, Alcatel One Touch and others, costing less than US$150.
 
Mozilla’s head honcho also says he believes that no app store can ever hope to reproduce the richness of the open Internet. Because of this, Mozilla’s Firefox OS has a chance as its ecosystem is powered by web apps that are written in HTML5 programming language instead of purposely-built, OS-dependent app stores such as those offered by the four other players.
 
“The people who suffer are the users, because ultimately the content available to them is limited,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “There is no strong commercial reason for somebody other than us to focus on a [common] standards approach. They make more money by locking others out.
 
“As we get into the 10-15% range, people will have to listen, they'll see this thing is picking up steam and they'll see this is the way,” he says, adding that Firefox OS does not need a massive market share to change the way smartphones are designed.”

(All pics courtesy of the GSM Association)
 
Related Stories:
 
Global mobile data traffic doubled in the last year: Ericsson

The coming of BYOD and its challenges

Gartner’s Top 10 strategic tech trends for 2013

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