Despite the conspicuous absence of the App store leader Apple at Mobile World Congress, mobile content is top of the agenda at this year’s industry jamboree in Barcelona and most industry announcements give something away about the content strategies of the companies involved.
1. Flurry of smartphone launches
Smartphone launches from Samsung, Sony Ericsson, ZTE, Motorola and Acer could dramatically increase competition in the smartphone space. Samsung’s Wave will be available in May and includes access to Samsung’s App store that it now available in several European countries and will be rolled out worldwide this year.
Sony Ericsson, for its part, released the X10 Mini and X10 Pro, descendants of the Xperia X10 Android. Sony Ericsson will also launch a Symbian smartphone this year, the Vivaz Pro. ZTE, meanwhile, announced that it would launch as many as ten smartphones this year, Acer a further six, and Motorola 20, two of which will be launched in the first quarter.
2. The rise of the open source OS
MWC 2010 has seen a proliferation of mobile handsets using Google’s Android platform with announcements from Alcatel, Dell, HTC, LG Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, ZTE, all demonstrating new Android‐powered handsets.
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Google’s Android platform has always been as much about as enabling search and services across different devices as capturing OS market share. The proprietary operating systems of old could have hampered this objective.
Google’s launch of the open source Android system prompted the Symbian family to follow suit and is now being followed by Nokia and Intel, which announced the launch of its Linux‐based platform MeeGo this week.
This will mean that Google developers will have free rein to develop services that can be rolled out across the lion’s share of the world’s smartphones.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given its continued dominance in the PC market, Microsoft, with its launch of Windows Phone 7, is bucking the open source trend.
3. Operators form their own apps community
In the Apps market, the launch by 24 mobile operators of a 'Wholesale Applications Community' should allow for mobile internet and applications to be downloaded without the potential headache of conflicting technologies.
An impressive list of operators has signed up to the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC), including AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. These operators will work with the GSM Association, LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson to allow developers to build and deliver apps according to a common standard developed with the GSM Association.
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Arguably, buy‐in from handset vendors that already have their own successful app stores is crucial for this to become a worldwide success. The most significant handset manufacturers in the App space have yet to come on board, namely Apple and RIM. And the fact that Apple is not at Mobile World Congress could suggest that it may not be interested in app initiatives from others.
4. GSMA embarks on LTE interconnection standards
Increasing capacity requirements born of the proliferation of Apps and improved access to the mobile internet has given a head of wind to Long‐Term Evolution (LTE). LTE now boasts several live roll‐outs and as many as 75 build‐out commitments.
Some 40 mobile industry organizations have now backed industry association GSMA's initiative to standardized the delivery of voice and messaging services for LTE.
The GSMA will also produce specifications to enable interconnection and international roaming between LTE networks by Q1 2011.
LTE Interconnect will be based on IMS (IP multimedia subsystem), which features call waiting, call hold, call barring and other features. Most operator and handset manufacturer household names are behind these initiatives. Hand over between networks will be based on the OneVoice Initiative which started as a collaboration of industry players including Orange, Telefonica, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, Alcatel‐Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
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While embarking on the technicalities of interconnection for LTE is a further validation of the technology and testament to the industry’s ability to collaborate to achieve technical goals, the advent of LTE may also open the door for operators to tier their levels of service for content carriage and charge accordingly.
5. NFC payment trial presages widespread adoption?
A SIM based mobile payments trial by the GSMA, Samsung, Telefonica, Visa, G&D, Ingenico, ITN International and La Caixa, could herald a new era in the development of mobile payments using NFC (Near Field Communications) technology.
The trial consisted of 400 handsets loaded with a Visa mobile payment application. It allowed participants to purchase goods up the value of €75 ($103) from 30 locations within the Congress.
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There have been several trials worldwide featuring mobile payment via NFC. While this trial will raise awareness of the technology, it will be the commercial launch of NFC handsets that drive NFC’s adoption.
As well as reconciling the interests of the various stakeholders in NFC, from the mobile operator, such as 02 in this case, to payment facilitator (Visa, La Caixa), to the small stall holder in the corner of the pavilion at Mobile World Congress.