Developers front and center at Mobile World Congress 2010

The GSM Association mounts its annual Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona, and the developer ecosystem is at the forefront like never before. This year's event heralds the introduction of App Planet, a series of platform-specific application development conferences taking place throughout the week--according to the GSMA, each conference focuses in-depth on subjects like tools, guidance, go-to-market knowledge and community support. App Planet hosts run the gamut from operators (Vodafone's 360 Developer Conference, taking place Feb. 15) to handset makers (Motorola's Developer Day, also Feb. 15 and Sony Ericsson Creation Day, slated for Feb.17) to platform providers (Google Android Developer Lab, also Feb. 17); keep close tabs on BlackBerry Developer Day, taking place Feb. 16--Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis is keynoting, leading to speculation RIM is planning a major announcement. Perhaps the company will formally launch the WebKit-based browser first announced at BlackBerry Developer Conference 2009 in November.

Expect Google to make waves that extend far beyond its own App Planet event. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is keynoting Mobile World Congress, and the rumor mill indicates his appearance will coincide with the release of the Nexus Two, a follow-up to the digital services giant's first branded Android smartphone--this one is said to boast a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, with Motorola on board as manufacturing partner. Android should cast a large shadow throughout next week--analysts anticipate a host of device announcements from companies including Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, HTC, Dell and Alcatel.

But the spotlight--and the pressure--is likely to fall most directly on Microsoft. The status and scope of the oft-delayed Windows Mobile 7 is the big question heading into Mobile World Congress--while some sources have reported the software giant will formally announce the revamped OS during Mobile World Congress 2010, others indicate it is now on hold until 2011. Although conventional wisdom suggests WinMo will mutate into a multimedia platform integrating Microsoft's Zune media player and Xbox Live gaming support, the software giant remains tight-lipped, promising only a significant announcement at its Feb. 15 press conference. And no matter how big, the news still might be too little, too late for the beleaguered operating system.

Whatever happens next week, FierceDeveloper will be in Barcelona to document it all. Be sure to join me and my FierceWireless colleagues Sue Marek and Mike Dano for our exhaustive live coverage from Mobile World Congress 2010. See you in Spain. -Jason