By Andrew Till
Well I’m back from another MWC, my 14 in total and don’t my feet know it, and what a show it was. Aside from the impact of the heavy rain fall during the first couple of days the mood was upbeat and shows what a difference a year can make in this industry.
If I had to summarise the show in a single word then it would have to be “change”. For me this year more than any other reflected the change and perhaps in some cases the confusion that is gripping the mobile industry. And when I say change this is not a bad thing as there are many changes that are clearly going to be of significant benefit to the industry as a whole from device vendors, through to developers and network operators. Of course change sometimes can be unsettling and cause people to worry and that is clearly happening but in most cases change results in more positives than negatives.
So what are these changes I hear you ask. Well let try and group them in to some key themes:
There were two major collaborations that caught my eye this year both of which were announced on the first day. Nokia and Intel confirmed that they are extending their working relationship to around Mobile Linux platforms with the creation of MeeGo from Moblin and Maemo. Clearly this is aimed at helping to bring a more competitive platform against Android but interestingly it will be hosted by the Linux Foundation and will see a tight level of integration between the platform and the underlying chipset platform, namely Atom, which should yield some significant performance benefits. It was very clear from the key messages pushed by both companies that this is about more than Nokia and Intel building smartphones as there are high expectations of other companies bring a wide range of consumer electronics devices to market utilising the MeeGo platform. And I am sure that developers will welcome the reduction in platform numbers even if it is only by one.
The other was the confirmation that 24 global operators are working together to form the “Wholesale Applications Community” to bring a common open application and content distribution model to the mobile market. Of course this will challenge the current platform specific approach that has become dominant in the past couple of years. While implementation details remain unclear it is expected to combine the efforts of both the Bondi and JIL communities in to a common standard. If this approach is successful then it will certainly be a significant leap forwards for developers who should be able to deploy applications through a single framework and gain access to a potential 3B subscribers.
OS platforms choices
Everywhere you went and in every hall it was alive with the buzz around the latest operating system releases. And no wonder given the year of change we have had with Android establishing itself as a major player, Symbian becoming open source, Microsoft unveiling Windows Phone 7 and a few other surprises.
Android: I lost count of how many handsets were announced but it was a lot. Not only were they high end large display models but there were also plenty of mid tier models from SonyEricsson, Motorola and Acer to name but a few. Much of the debate centred on when FroYo will be released and could you get in to the Google developer talks and then take your pick of a Nexus One or Droid giveaway.
Bada: Samsung launched its first Bada handset and I believe it took most people by surprise. Not only does it have a beautiful display and lost of great features but it was also simple and easy to use.
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft made a strong push and it is clear that they are not giving up on their aspirations to be a major player in Mobile. WP7 is a significant upgrade from 6.5 with much of the UE having been completely re-developed and once again I believe many people were surprised at how far the platform has come. Leveraging a lot form the Zune HD in terms of interaction models and having many nice simple usability features WP7 should prove to be a turning point for Microsoft and we can certainly expect to see a range of ODM based handsets by the end of the year.
Symbian: The major news from Symbian was that the Symbian 4 release will be a major upgrade for the platform designed to bring a new more flexible architecture and UI experience including support for the latest release of QT.
MeeGo: As highlighted earlier this is the new platform being created from the merger of Moblin, Maemo and with QT as the main runtime and UI framework. With pre-releases available now and the 1.0 release expected in late Q2 this looks like a platform that should gain some significant interest within the developer community.
That’s if for this part but check back later as I will be add more key observations from the show.