M2M rises while tablets fall - Mobile World Congress 2012 Scorecard

Whose profile is rising? Connected devices and M2M

Mobile World Congress was filled with companies making announcements around connected devices and machine-to-machine connections. This phenomenon isn't surprising, considering this segment is expected to fuel growth in the industry. According to a recent report from Cisco, by 2016 there will be more M2M connections than the number of people on the planet (7.3 billion). 

With that in mind, the GSMA expanded its Connected House initiative from 2011 with a two-story "model" connected home at the center of the show's grounds. The Connected House featured solutions from the likes of AT&T (NYSE:T), which pushed its Connected Life services for Web-based home automation, energy and security services. The house also showcased technologies for delivering content wirelessly in living rooms, keeping track of kids and other automated services.

Beyond the exhibit, multiple carriers made connected device announcements. AT&T unveiled its global SIM for M2M devices along with a platform powered by Jasper Wireless to help manage global wireless device deployments.

Also front and center was the connected car. Bill Ford, Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., used his keynote session to call upon the wireless industry to work with automakers to rethink urban transportation. Further, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) announced it will be a strategic wireless partner for Chrysler Group's Uconnect voice-activated vehicle communications system. A recent study from Machina Research estimated that the connected car segment will be worth $600 billion by 2020, the largest category within an overall M2M market of $4.5 trillion. FierceWireless also hosted a live panel discussion on the connected car.

Clearly, connected devices were in the spotlight at Mobile World Congress, and are likely to stay there for years to come.

Whose profile is falling? Tablets

Although a handful of companies, including Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE, unveiled a few tablets with beefy specs, tablets were definitely on the downslope this year, especially compared with last year. Part of this stems from timing and part of it from the market's inability to make a sizeable dent in Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) market lead.

At last year's MWC, the Honeycomb version of Android, specifically designed for tablets, had just been released, and dozens of tablet makers rushed to get tablets into the market. HTC, for example, used the show in 2011 to debut its first tablet, the Flyer. This year, high-profile announcements of that nature were hard to find.

Samsung, seen as the leading Android tablet maker, added a few more models to its already expansive range of tablets, including the GalaxyTab 2 series and a 10.1-inch version of the Galaxy Note, complete with an "S pen" for digital markup and "S Note," a tool that lets allows users to combine notes or sketches with Web content, images and other digital media. Despite these flourishes, even Samsung noted that its tablet sales have not been on fire.

"Honestly, we're not doing very well in the tablet market," Hankil Yoon, a product strategy executive for Samsung, said, according to CNET. Even if the comment was off the cuff, it was still on the record and demonstrates that even the mightiest players are not finding many inroads in the market, which could be a reason why major tablet announcements fell off this year.

Alain Mutricy, Motorola Mobility's (NYSE:MMI) senior vice president of portfolio and product management, said that the flood of Honeycomb tablets from Asian vendors last year were not all of the best quality, and that consumers could not understand whether the software was the problem or the hardware. That rush of inconsistent products at a wide range of price points undercut Android tablets, he said. Couple that lack of momentum with the launch of Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire, which undercut tablet OEMs on price because Amazon hopes to make back money on content purchases, and there is a clear recipe for tablet makers rethinking their strategies and launching fewer products. 

M2M rises while tablets fall - Mobile World Congress 2012 Scorecard