Mobile World Congress: Day one

Nokia launches context-aware Ovi Store - by Tony Cripps

No real surprise here. However, Nokia's Ovi Store is not simply a "me-too" take on the barnstorming iPhone App Store, although its concept undoubtedly owes a great deal to Apple's success. For one, Nokia's version is aimed at a far broader user demographic, with both mid-range Series 40 devices and high-end S60 handsets being catered for. For another, Nokia will use location and other personal information (with user buy-in) to enable it to deliver a more personalized buying experience than its rivals. "Context" is something of a Nokia obsession of late, so this could prove interesting, but is as yet an unknown.

That said, the Ovi Store is not guaranteed to emulate the success of the Apple App Store. Nokia plans to use operator billing and credit-card processing for content purchasing. However, neither means is as natural to users as Apple's fully integrated experience. Nor does it seem that Nokia is supplying the means to update content and applications on the device, let alone the firmware itself, as Apple has done. Perhaps Nokia is saving that for a premium offering where there's less need to kowtow to operators‾

GSMA study provides measurements for mobile advertisers - by Eden Zoller

The GSMA and an operator task force made up of Telefonica, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile International and 3 have released a UK study on mobile browsing that they believe will make mobile advertising more appealing to brands. The study, which is part of the GSMA's Mobile Media Metrics program, tracked trends such as the most popular sites by number of visitors, page impressions and duration.

The study shows that 68% of UK mobile users visit operator portals, making them the most popular destination. Google is the top off-portal destination and Facebook is the top mobile site by time spent browsing. Others in the top ten include Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, Sony Online, AOL and Nokia. Although operator portals still have good traction, the study underscores the fact that online players and their services are becoming increasingly popular among mobile consumers.

The study also includes a wealth of other user behavior data and demographics, provided on an aggregated basis, and this is exactly what the mobile advertising market is crying out for. The industry needs to create a defined, well-understood commercial framework for mobile advertising that makes it easier for brands and media players to do business and see clearly where they can get a ROI. The GSMA Mobile Media Metrics initiative and this study are a step in the right direction.

Alcatel-Lucent announces next-generation service initiative - by Emeka Obiodu

Alcatel-Lucent has cranked up the debate about 4G and the services it will enable. In a statement today, the French-American vendor said it has founded the ng (Next Generation) Connect Program, a group aimed at promoting future mobile and fixed broadband services, devices, applications and content. Since its conception, the ng Connect Program has attracted several members including HP and Samsung.

While the idea of an industry-wide initiative to promote future services is laudable, a lot more needs to be done to craft a coherent framework for future mobile services.

 

We notice that the ng Connect Program has yet to sign up any of the big players that lead the industry. Unfortunately, if the likes of Nokia, Microsoft, Vodafone and Google are not brought onboard, it has little chance of achieving its objectives.

Sony Ericsson announces new strategy: same as old one - by Steven Hartley

Sony Ericsson has revealed its new "Entertainment Unlimited" strategy. It will increase its focus on high-end, multimedia devices and broaden the user experience across devices.

It's not too cruel to describe the "new" strategy as staggering in its blandness. It is little different to the joint venture's founding principle that should have been guiding the company anyway. Instead of having music-centric Walkman devices and camera-oriented Cybershot phones, the new approach calls for something of a "˜Cyber-man' approach. Full multimedia functionality is to be concentrated in a single device, as envisaged by the forthcoming W995 and Idou.

Will it work‾ The elements of the announcement expanding the user experience to other devices are crucial. Otherwise Sony Ericsson will struggle to differentiate in an increasingly crowded high-end market.

Embedded HSPA in devices: new chipsets bring new capabilities - by Tim Renowden

Non-handset devices combining embedded HSPA connectivity with high-end multimedia capabilities and improved power consumption have been prominent on day one.

Qualcomm has announced partnerships with device manufacturers using its Snapdragon chipset, ranging from high-end phones through to MIDs and netbooks, and a range of laptops using the Gobi-embedded 3G platform. NVIDIA claims its TEGRA platform (a low-cost, low-power-consumption chipset combining 3G and WiFi connectivity with HD video recording and playback) will enable $99 MID devices with high-end multimedia and Internet abilities. It also announced a partnership with Sony Ericsson to bring the TEGRA platform to MID devices based on Windows CE. Finally, Sierra Wireless announced a HSPA+ PCI Express module for laptops, enabling speeds of 21Mbps/5.76Mbps.

New technology platforms allow manufacturers to combine all the hot device features of 2009 (high-speed connectivity, including HSDPA up to 21Mbps; location-awareness using GPS; and high-definition multimedia playback and streaming) into devices that sit between phone handsets and laptops, blurring the lines between phones, MIDs and media players. Network operators will need to develop new services and pricing models to meet the opportunities these devices offer.

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