Whose profile is rising: Google
Google CEO Eric Schmidt made what many consider to be one of the best keynote addresses in the recent history of Mobile World Congress when he took the stage Tuesday evening. Following an amusing, self-deprecating video produced by Google for the Mobile World Congress crowd, Schmidt gave a wide-ranging keynote address in which he outlined an evolving mobile ecosystem heralded by growing smartphone penetration and accelerating mobile Web adoption. According to Schmidt, more than 60,000 Google Android-based devices now ship each day worldwide, double the number just a quarter earlier. He added that continued growth depends on the cloud.
He also vehemently denied the company plans to reduce operators to little more than "dumb pipes." Answering questions from the audience, Schmidt was quick to shoot down one analyst's assertion that Google's mobile vision does not make sufficient room for its network operator partners: "We feel very strongly that we depend on the successful business of operators globally," he said. "We need advanced, sophisticated networks."
Schmidt's keynote may not have eased some of the industry's skepticism about the firm's growing influence in wireless, but it did gain the company some respect. In a recap of Mobile World Congress, Strand Consult said that although it still believes Google wants to reduce operators to dumb pipes, it respected Schmidt for "holding his own in the middle of the lion's den and answering these questions."
Whose profile is declining: Wireless operators
Admittedly, it's a bit of stretch to say that traditional wireless operators' profile is declining at the largest wireless show in the world. But at this conference where the leaders of the largest and most powerful operators in the world gather, there was not one standout address from a mobile operator. "Open" was a common theme for all operators at the show. In a keynote address Tuesday morning, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao touted his company's openness to content providers, app stores and application developers while chastising companies like Google and Yahoo! for what he considers their potentially monopolistic hold on the Internet search and advertising market. And Vodafone was not alone. Newly minted GSMA member Verizon Wireless also pushed its open message during a press conference with Skype announcing a custom Skype Mobile application for its smartphones.
The claims of "openness" are getting a bit tiresome, particularly when the ecosystem is still so fragmented. While the GSMA should be commended for its formation of the Wholesale Application Community, which was admittedly thrown together at the last minute by board members, specifics of the initiative are very vague. Although members, which include 24 operator partners and a handful of manufacturers, claim they will make it easier for app developers to create applications across multiple networks, there is a lot of skepticism about whether this can actually be accomplished.