Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mobile World Congress 2011 Review

By Andrew Till
OK so now I’ve had a few days to recover from this year’s MWC it’s time to reflect on the key takeaway’s from 4 (wet) days in Barcelona. You’ll also see that I have again failed to meet my objectives of keeping blogs to less than 200 words – I hope you enjoy and happy reading.

Android, Android Everywhere
So let’s get this out of the way first. Abig well done to Google for s
tealing the show. No I’m not referring to the overwhelming number of devices powered by the small green robot but of course to the 86 unique and collectable badges available from the stands of key partners such as Teleca. It was a truly masterful stroke of marketing innovation and managed to turn MWC in to one of the largest treasure hunts I’ve ever seen.Of course on a more serious note there was a major show of force by the Android community with a host of Gingerbread based handsets and Honeycomb based tablets being shown off by all the key players and also by many brands that I had not heard of before.

And of course we at Teleca we showing off the work we have been doing on GoogleTV and for Sirius XM on their new Android platform as well as a host of other innovations such as Dual Display support, 3D UIs and a world of cool applications.

MeeGo, MeeGone, MeeStay
Staying on operating systems then MeeGo turned out to be a real surprise package at MWC 2011. Heading in to the show I wondered if it was a case of here today and MeeGone tomorrow. However there was a strong show of force, at least behind the scenes if not publically, around MeeGo and it’s clear that in the words of Mark Twain “rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”.

Yes Nokia’s announcements around MeeGo cast a shadow but it’s clear that operators, devices vendors and automotive companies as well as Intel have big plans for MeeGo and the investment in the platform will continue with Meego 1.2 devices expected to start shipping later this year.

Tablets, Tablets, Tablets
Perhaps the least surprising observation of MWC was that everyone is jumping on the Tablet bandwagon. All the major players come out fighting in this segment showing off their tablet devices including Samsung, HTC, LGE, HP, RIM, Motorola etc. The good thing to see is that after the initial wave of vanilla Android tablets launched earlier this year at CES we are now starting to see some real innovation in this space. For example LGE showed off a Tablet with 3D video capture, HTC shown an impressive implementation of their Sense UI, while Samsung was pushing on Multimedia and imaging with their Galaxy Tab 10.1 supporting 8MP camera. I also got the chance to play with the latest version of the MeeGo based WeTab which is a very impressive device with a very simple and compelling UI for first time users

With so many tablets launching it’s great to see device vendors really pushing their own take on the tablet and just falling in to the trap of launching pale imitations of the iPad. This bodes well for the future and suggests that the Tablet market is here to stay.

Another key theme of the show was 3D with a number of vendors showing some impressive, and some not so impressive, 3D enabled devices including handsets and tablets. Thankfully for the most part this does not involve revisiting the 1970’s for a red and blue overload but instead the mobile market is jumping straight to Stereoscopic displays thus removing the need for glasses. It was not only device vendors showing 3D but scattered around the halls were a number of innovative start up’s showing some very impressive next generation 3D display technologies that if bought to market will really make 3D a viable mass market solution.

The initial applications being shown off focused on UI enhancements, especially carousel UIs, 3D Movies and mobile gaming. While this will help to establish the category we will need to see a rapid expansion in terms of general application support and ultimately browser support for 3D to firmly establish itself as something more than the next marketing slogan but for now I am sure that it will play a key role in all the big summer marketing campaigns.

The Dawn of Dual Core
A very hot topic was dual core support in new devices. Just about everyone had a Tegra 2 based device and was busy promoting the MHz’s packed in to their latest products. It looks clear that for the next couple of years there will be an intense level of competition around who has the largest number of cores and the highest MHz number which will likely drive many wild and wonderful applications and services. The use or dual and quad core chipsets holds a lot of promise for enabling both the next generation of WOW UIs (most likely 3D) and a wide range of new applications and services as well as improving overall device responsiveness. However for this year’s MWC there was little evidence of new applications or services really taking strong advantage of the dual core capabilities but I for one expect the focus to have moved significantly by MWC 2012 from just having a dual core device to really showing off the benefits and targeted applications support this.

NFC gains momentum
Near Field Communications was another hot area of discussion following the inclusion of NFC in the Android 2.3 release and the Nexus S. It certainly appears that NFC is now being taken very serious by both handset and Tablet vendors but also within the Automotive community with use cases moving beyond mobile payment in to a much wider range of applications and services around content management and device interaction.

After many years of promise it’s great to see NFC finally gaining real traction, outside of Japan and Korea, as it’s a technology that has the potential to significantly reduce transaction times for a wide range of services as well as bring a strong security framework to support mobile financial services.

Chipset ecosystems
Another aspect of the show was the continued evolution of the Silicon vendors to build ecosystems as they seek to deliver more value to customers in order to gain design wins. For example STEricsson launched their Igloo community play to support their new application and baseband chipsets and Intel continued to make a strong play around its Atom platform and MeeGo with a dedicated booth focused exclusively on this.

So in summary for me perhaps not major surprises are MWC, aside from the Android badges, but more a confirmation that the industry is moving forwards with a wider range of experiences and form factors. It was also further confirmation that the excitement from momentum that started to return last year has really built through the year and the industry in general is feeling a lot more positive about growth and profitability. It’s also great to see that people are now really starting to bring strong differentiation to their Android devices and are exploring many new user experiences which again underlines the renewed level of confidence that is building within the industry.