Overall, it was pretty underwhelming as a conference. There were a few interesting standouts, but in general it was more of the same — fortunately, we were part of one of the most exciting events, Samsung’s Unpacked Event for the S5 – which technically was not part of the MWC though.
This year had a lot of companies simply refreshing their next device, a few forays into the expected (wearables and connected cars for example), and a couple into the unexpected (Android-based Nokia phones anyone?? Or the Blackphone?)
In general though, I would be hard pressed to say this year was evolutionary let alone revolutionary. It was more of the same from years past — more devices, each trying to out do each other with some combination of a dual-core/quad-core, MegaPixel camera, variant sizes, variant colors, etc. — it is more a reflection of where we are though — over the past few years, significant progress has been made on all fronts in terms of network rollouts, availability of devices, and proven methods to monetize apps, that the ecosystem is simply at a point to cash in. The ability to find a corresponding company willing to link up with is perhaps the bright spot — it seems everyone in the ecosystem is finally ready.
There were also some things conspicuous in their absence: NFC, QR codes for example — while some companies were using them, they was far from any real hype around them.
Payment services were not big and loud either, but more present in the form of announcements (Samsung/PayPal, Mastercard/Syneverse, Visa’s HCE based platform), but it felt more like payments was more as ‘ok, we’re ready — just start using it!’.
There were some general themes though:
Samsung was a theme on it’s own. While Samsung spending boatloads on marketing is not new and the debate on the effectiveness is still ongoing — it was still impressive with how Samsung went all in. They were simply everywhere — with a booth in nearly every single Hall. Many companies are dumping having a booth at all due to the excessive costs (most notably Google), and Samsung is going the other way, increasing the number of booths (I counted at least 4). Add to that, with their successive announcements, on an almost daily basis: Gear 2, Fit (super cool curved-Amoled device), Galaxy S5 (Ranked the #1 announcement), Knox, … it almost felt like it was the Samsung conference at times.
Devices, Devices, and more devices
There wasn’t really that much new — everything was Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger… very little overly exciting. Every company had one: Top Smartphones except HTC which was still modeling their HTC One, and tweeted out a battle cry to Samsung about S5 owners having buyer’s remorse on March 25th It seemed that without real innovation, it was about showing off various variances of what a smartphone could be including Panasonic’s 4K tabled and tough pad, Kyocera Hydro (which can be dunked up to a meter deep), a Giant LTE Phone from ZTE.
On the other end of the spectrum there were cheaper phone models aimed at ushering in emerging market users into the smartphone revolution. The Nokia X, XL, X+ were priced in the 89 Euros range, and Mozilla’s FirefoxOS phone is only $25 USD! supported by Huawei, Lg, ZTE — with Facebook launching their Internet.org initiative, expect this to take off in a big way.
Kyocera did show off some really cool concept devices hinting at years to come though.
If there was one thing that was a bit more revolutionary, it was the near overnight change of wearables being an early adopter tech, slightly gimmicky, made for tech nerds, to being completely mainstream. Every company seemed to have a device. Amongst the launches: Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear Fit, Sony SmartBand SWR10 with their LifeLog applications, we saw the glimpses of wearables becoming real tools rather than just gimmicky fitness gadgets.
In the coming years, this is definitely going to be an area of increased innovation as wearables move into more and more vertical domains.
In order to support the continued ramp of more an more connected devices, there were a lot of network companies showing off components to both optimize existing networks but also evolve them into LTE U+ and LTE-A. There were quite a few companies such as Lucent and Huawei showing of Wi-Fi / LTE backhaul switching to improve indoor coverage. It will be interesting how this plays out in terms of cutting out the Carriers from providing services within an enterprise for example.
With Samsung demonstrating download speeds of 300MBps on their Note 3 and Qualcomm streaming 4K video to a wirelessly connected TV, it is clear that the the existing networks will not only become saturated very quickly, but with the striking down of net neutrality will lead to enterprises looking at other options to guarantee QoS with having to pay over the top tariffs. Mobile data traffic is expected to multiply by 11-fold (*Telefonica) over the next five years due to increasing use of video, and other cloud based services () which will make current usage look insignificant.
Enterprise is Back
The consumer devices stole the show in terms of flash and pomp – but business services were at MWC 2014 with a big presence as well. Nearly every big IT shop was present and hawking new services for mobility management services, in addition there were a number of acquisitions (VMWare of AirWatch, Good Technology of BoxTone) heating up the competition for a lucrative market. It was in this context that a lot of companies were talking about the need to ensure security and privacy, especially in light of NSA and other governments spying on user data. While users may be ok with giving up their privacy, Enterprises are not – I expect Privacy to be a much bigger deal next year.
Oh and Blackberry announced they were coming back as an enterprise play (wait.. isn’t that what they were??)
Well that’s it — this isn’t meant to be overly comprehensive or exhaustive — it is simply one person’s view of an overly large conference (80,000 attendees this time… ). Questions? Thoughts? Feel free to send them along!
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