Every year in February, the brightest minds of the wireless industry meet in Barcelona to take part in the Mobile World Congress.
This year was no exception, as more than 60,000 attendees converged to the city of Gaudi last week, and - mixing business with pleasure - enjoyed some of the finest cuisines of the world in restaurants and tapas bars across town. This brings us to the title of this article: Mobile Tapas from Barcelona or the Top 5 Trends from Mobile World Congress 2012.
Mobile Tapa #1: the War of Ecosystems
While nearly every major device maker launched Android phones and tablets, Google’s own Android mothership landed once more in Hall 8 and released little green robots that mushroomed on visitors’ jackets and lanyards, popped up at every booth, and distributed all kinds of green sweet treats, including much coveted Ice Cream Sandwiches.
But Android is no longer the undisputed king of this jungle. In fact, Microsoft launched a general assault, with new Windows Phone 8 announcements coming from several major brands, not the least being Nokia who made a big comeback to La Fira after many years of absence. On the tablet front, Microsoft’s decision last year to move away from exclusivity with Wintel materialized in their showcasing several tablet designs running Windows 8 on ARM from Nvidia, TI, and Qualcomm (in addition to Intel of course).
Although some battles have been won and lost... this war is just starting!
Mobile Tapa #2: Show me the mmmmMoney!
This year, the bankers were in town; Visa, MasterCard, and Western Union all tied up with some of the biggest names of the telecom industry to enable mobile money.
The UK is turning into a leading hub for mobile near field communication (NFC) payments, with Visa and Vodafone teaming up on this front, while in other regions of the world Ericsson will focus on enabling mobile money transfers through telcos and Western Union’s stores in Emerging Markets.
Closer to home, Etisalat and MasterCard bagged the Global Mobile Award for “Best Mobile Money Innovation,” as the Etisalat Commerce platform makes financial services available for millions of people in Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. (By the way, this was one of 3 awards won by Etisalat at the show this year… scroll for more!).
Mobile Tapa #3: Size doesn't matter… or does it?
Pushing the boundaries of what can be packed into a cell phone, Nokia released the 808 Pure View, a 41 Mega Pixel camera phone (yes… 41 MP, there is NO dot!), while LG stretched (literally) the limits of the smartphone definition with a 5” screen in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Singing their own tune, Samsung have expanded the Note range (which exists in the grey space between a phone and a tablet), adding the Galaxy Note 10.1," and coupled that with the launch of the Galaxy Beam projector-phone which can display on a wall images and videos up to 50” in size.
Meanwhile a more subtle debate was taking place in the nanosphere, where Intel, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm took the moral high ground and emphasized the importance of design efficiency and user experience over number of cores, which prompted Nvidia, to proudly kick off the week with rebranding their Tegra 3 architecture to “4-plus-1”, in reference to their 5th core!
Mobile Tapa #4: The (Auto)mobile Internet
The Internet of Everything is becoming a reality, following the emergence in 2011 of wearable devices, mainly in the guise of watches and wrist bands (iPod Nano, Motorola MOTOACTV, Sony Smartwatch, Jawbone UP, Nike Fuel, etc.). This year also heralds the move of the internet inside the automobile: Nvidia announced that their Tegra processors will be soon available in the Audi A7, the Lamborghini Aventador, and the Tesla Model S (which will actually have 2 Tegras in it- one responsible for generating the 3D graphics needed for the infotainment and navigation systems, and a second used for the instrument hub, which will also feature 3D graphics providing information about the vehicle).
The most notable news on this front came from Germany that week where Mercedes Benz announced a pioneering licensing agreement with Apple to use Siri in their "Drive Kit Plus" system... making a whole generation's Knight Rider fantasy come true!
Mobile Tapa #5: The Spring
Taking advantage of the media attention, daily protests took place outside the gates of La Fira on Plaça d'Espanya, as workers demanded better wages and work conditions. This was the only cloud in an otherwise spotless blue sky, as this year's congress basked in the glow of an exceptional Mediterranean sunshine (compared to the last 2 years) heralding an early spring on the west Mediterranean.
Adding a hint of Arabia to this spring, Etisalat, in partnership with Qualcomm, Great Connection and D-Tree, received two Global Mobile Awards in the ‘Best Mobile Health Innovation’ and ‘mWomen Best Mobile Product’ categories for their mobile health program in developing countries, adding this to the 'mobile Money' award they received in collaboration with MasterCard.
This was all from my side for this year, follow me @wirelessly on twitter for more!