Friday, February 20, 2009

MWC 2009 Summary -New opportunities ahead

By Andrew Till:
At the start of this year´s MWC we speculated on a number of key trends that we expected to observe at the show. So now that MWC is finished for another year lets take a look at the key trends for the year(s) ahead.

One prediction was that the world would become more open. While we may not have seen too many Android handsets being announced it was certainly the key theme of discussion on the show floor. Expect to see a lot of Android products arriving in 4Q09 and early 2010 as handset vendors seek to leverage the platform and without doubt take advantage of the link to Google. A key issue and I would speculate a driver behind the lack of formal announcements is how to bring true differentiation to Android based devices (and yes I say devices on purpose but more on that in a moment). Do you add new applications, but run the risk that someone in the community will suddenly contribute this to the baseline, great new UI flows, focus on E2E services or align with operator needs and address their requirements. These seem to be the key issues that are keeping people awake at night. We can also expect to see Android appearing in devices outside of handsets with a range of consumer electronics devices being planned to utilise the platform.

But that’s the future what about the here and now and how open is it? Well the Symbian foundation started to put momentum behind its marketing machine and also pointed to the announcements of 3 key handsets at the show. The SonyEricsson Idou with a 12MP camera has clearly upped the stakes in the megapixel war. The Samsung Omnia HD delivers stunning audio and video performance using the S60 V5.0 platform and Nokia’s N86 8MP camera phone puts it firmly back in the megapixel fight. With the N86 and Omnia HD due out in 2Q09 the Symbian Foundation looks to be starting the year with a strong line up of flagship handsets.And of course lets not forget Palm who have been the recipients of lavish praise for the Pre and Microsoft’s re-branding of Windows Mobile to “Windows”. LG also appeared to pick up the standard for Windows following the decline of Motorola. LG used MWC to announce that it will launch 50 (yes that is FIFTY) models using the platform by the end of 2012.

But enough about smartphone platforms what else was happening at the show.

It was without question a quieter show. Estimates for attendance put it at anywhere between 30,000 – 35,000 people. And while this was great for one’s ability to quickly dash between halls to get from meeting to meeting it did not seem to impact the quality of the show. If anything this year was about getting back to basics and doing business. The meetings were more focused and serious, the questions were tougher and more direct and above all there was a sense of urgency that people need to move quickly in order to protect their turf or to go on the attack as they see competitors falling.

Well the RTOS appears to be far from dead with many players adding more capabilities and run time environments to their platforms taking advantage of the continued decline in chipset and memory prices.

The battle ground for leadership in the application processor market is heating up and this is driving prices down and speed up to dizzying heights. Expect 1GHz to become widely available with 2-3 on the horizon and YES I am talking about mobile phones not PCs. And if what TI were showing on their booth is a good guide form the industry then expect 3D displays to be something we can expect to see in the next couple of years. But will we need this I hear you ask. Well as memory continues to fall in price and more devices are launched with 8, 16, 32 GB of storage then yes we clearly will need more power to process all the data that consumers will store, download, share and blog from their mobile device.

There is also an interesting conflict looming between the PC driven Netbook and the more mobile industry driven Mobile Internet Device (MID). What’s the difference? About 4-5 inches in display size, keyboard and possibility DVD drives that Netbooks will have that MIDs will not. On the other side MIDs will be inherently more portable. It’s clear that PC vendors are looking to make another push towards the mobile market and view this as a key entry strategy. Who will win in this space is hard to predict and will ultimately be defined by the trade-offs that consumers are willing to make.

Away from the show floor there were a lot of LTE demonstrations with the corridor conversations focusing on mid 2010 as the date we will start to see real market activity for the next evolution of mobile data.

And Teleca was even mentioned in the day three notes of Dr Richard Windsor which is no small achievement.

But perhaps the most surprising news was that Nokia and Qualcomm are finally to work together on S60 to deliver handsets for the North American market.

So in summary, a quieter show but a more focused show. A show full of paradoxes and change but also with clear signs that despite the global economic downturn there is now slow down in innovation or competitive intensity within the mobile world. An event that made a clear statement that while the world may have its troubles and the leading players are changing, in handsets, chipsets, basestations, the show most definitely will go on.

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