Friday, January 30, 2009

What's up

As we look ahead to this year’s Mobile World Congress it is hard to believe how much has changed in the last 12 months. Not just in terms of the global financial crisis but also in terms of the competitive dynamics within the mobile industry. The world has become increasingly open with the trend towards open source software gathering pace at an ever increasing rate. We have seen the first Android based handset launch in several markets and the creation of the Symbian Foundation. Undoubtedly there will be more to come and we may well expect additional announcements from platform vendors at this year’s show. But it’s not only operating systems that have become more open, so have operator services with many operators increasingly offering open access to traditional web services supported by flat rate tariffs. And we have seen consumers respond strongly to these changes with ever more Smartphones being sold and higher levels of data usage being recorded around the world (and not just in 1st world economies).

It’s also been a time of change in the handset vendor community with continued churn in the number 2 to number 5 positions, a steady flow of new entrants into the market and a healthy rumour mill about who will be entering the market in 2009. And if the rumours are to be believed then we should certainly expect a few surprising announcements at this year’s 3GSM. Finally we have seen an explosion in the number of consumers downloading applications and services to their handsets. This has largely been driven by the introduction of new, simple and easy to use services such as Apple’s application store (which has now seen a staggering 500M downloads) and Google’s Android market. Again this is an area to watch at this year’s show as the key players announce their strategic response to this critical market dynamic.

So while the current market challenges will no doubt result in fewer attendees at this year’s show (making that little bit easier to run between halls and hopefully a shorter queue for coffee) there will certainly not be a reduction in the level of excitement or importance this year’s show will play in setting the agenda for what is shaping up to be a very exciting year ahead.