MWC 2011 Observations

Categories: Spain, Tech Reviews, Technology, World News

Following are some of my high level observations from Mobile World Congress 2011

Overall, the conference was incredibly large. I have not been for 2 years, but this year it seemed a bit overwhelming with a record number of attendees – an indicator of the amount of money that is flooding into Mobile currently.

There were some key themes that I saw across the congress which I think are important to highlight.

Form factors
It is not news that tablets are coming on to the market fast.  ZTE, Huawei, Motorola, ASUS, ACER, LG, and every other major player has one coming out.  What was interesting though, was that the capabilities vary vastly.  They differed in gaming-oriented vs business-oriented, low-end vs high-end, and in general processing power.  However, aside from tablets, other devices such as dual screen mobiles, gaming devices, and more flip phones were also on show.  The proliferation of devices that we have seen in mobile thus far will pale in comparison to what is happening in the market now.

Android was simply everywhere.  The show seemed like one big Android marketing blitz with an ingenious ‘pins’ campaign ( – unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to pick any up!  Every OEM seemed to be getting into the Android game and to my surprise even NTT Docomo was touting the new Android-based Toshiba Regza phone.  In mid-2010 (with Froyo) Android released an invite-only cloud based push notification system, and with their latest release (Gingerbread) they opened it up further.  This was news to me…

Further to that,  the majority of new devices coming onto the market seemed to be  based on Android, how does that play into your overall app strategy?  Strangely, Samsung is still touting Bada and the WAC forum is gaining momentum. (Note: While it was interesting that Apple was not really at the MWC, Apple was still very much present in that many application provider companies were demoing on iPad/iPhone, and used iOS as their first go-to market platform. They were still very much the elephant in the room)

Contrary to some expectations, the emergence of highly capable devices with full fledged browsers and native applications has not diminished the role of SMS. In fact it seems to have pushed it to more importance.  Text messaging is being seen as a necessary component to having a comprehensive data offering, where marketing campaigns or PR initiatives utilize the medium to drive traffic back to other services.

Long-Term-Evolution or so called 4G, has been much discussed for years, but in the coming ones it looks to finally come to reality.  With WiMAX pretty much dead and a migration path to re-coup existing CapEx expenditures available, further deployments are expected.  By 2015 (which is just beyond the 3 year view Blake is advocating), over 4% of mobile users will be on LTE.  In absolute terms, that equates to 120M users in APAC alone, and disproportionately towards high margin users with higher consumption.  The operators’ vested interest for LTE adoption will present partnering and distribution opportunities. This will be a disruptive technology – perhaps more so than 3G was in regards to data usage.

Operators are looking to re-establish themselves as the relationship holder with customers.  In European and APAC markets, carriers seem to feel that they have sufficient user loyalty to leverage their billing relationship and to introduce payment options for goods and services.  Carrier billing, NFC, and other services are coming into the market, and 2011 is seen to be a watershed year.  Conversely, third party services such as Google Checkout were being touted as the preferred choice and bypassing the operator.  How does that play out for content providers? It is an interesting issue which I do not really have much visibility into. My thinking is that there is opportunity to extract value there though.

Those are my quick notes. It is not meant to be comprehensive or prescriptive, but more of a reference for further discussions.  Please feel free to comment with your thoughts!  I’d like to hear your views.

  • I agree on Android everywhere. However, my view on Apple and the iPhone ecosystem is somehow different. Virtually all the companies we’ve interviewed (around 30), had an ongoing (or already done) development for Android, whilst only a couple of them were currently working on iPhone. The comments were always the same: “Apple does not disclose the APIs we need”, or “Apple did not approve our applications” and things of the sort. Besides, there is a serious impact on the in-app princing model of Apple, precluding virtually all SaaS models to go through Apple: you can’t seriously aim at 30% share on SaaS monthly fees (the model seems to be thought just for single payment apps). I truly believe that the industry is now moving massively towards Android, and I would expect some reaction from Apple.

    • I agree. Apple’s current model is not working well for SaaS models and that they need to rethink how they will tackle that. I expect that in the future that single payment apps will not make up the lion’s share of apps. One Android gets their marketplace fixed (right now they have huge issues in payment reconciliation), Apple will have an even bigger fight I think. I also wouldn’t discount Win7/Nokia figuring out a model for Enterprise which could be interesting…

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