If you came to Mobile World Congress 2013 expecting super-exciting product announcements from major manufacturers and hoping to see groundbreaking technologies, you came to the wrong place for the wrong reason. If you came to see who’s who, get a general health check of the industry and meet people with whom you could do business, MWC 2013 did not disappoint.
New Phones …
HTC announced its new HTC One a week ahead of the show. Samsung will announce its Galaxy S IV at its own press conference in New York on March 14. And, with the exception of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 (iPad mini competitor/killer) and Nokia’s 520 and 720 (lower-end, less-expensive Windows Phone 8 offerings) there was not much new from the big players.
Firefox and Tizen and a few other competitors for the “third” operating system were on display, but it is in the very early days and (regardless of features) it’s impossible to pick a winner – or even a serious contender just yet.
… Same Old Hardware
If you came to MWC 2013 for the hardware, you would have been reminded of Comdex about 20 years ago – a sea of undifferentiated hardware (handsets/PCs), all running the same operating system (Android 4.1.2/Windows), competing by touting features (as opposed to benefits).
What did we see? Quad-core processors that allowed devices to multitask, HD video and better cameras. Yawn. Again, if you came here to see new awesome hardware, you came to the wrong place.
That said, there was a remarkable amount of business to be done this year. The new venue was big and well suited. Hopefully, the city of Barcelona will work out the cab lines, bus lines and train lines for next year. 75,000 people all trying to get from the Fira Gran Via back to the middle of town was challenging (actually, it was exceptionally annoying).
The Big Takeaways
Logistics aside, carriers from around the world attended and were there to do business, as were manufacturers of all sizes. If you wanted to create a B2B or M2M solution that required OEM hardware and deals made with carrier in global markets, this was THE place. Content providers, advertisers and brands had the opportunity to meet every organization in the value chain and get a better understanding of the role of each. And MWC 2013 was also a great place to develop relationships with your counterparts from around the world.
The statistics are compelling. According to Cisco, of the approximately 2.2 billion people connected to the Internet today, 1.6 billion of them connect using a mobile device. There are over 7 billion connectable devices in the world today and by 2015, Intel says that there will be over 3 billion connected people using over 15 billion connected devices. How will we service a market growing at this rate? If you spent your time wisely, many paths to answering that question could be found at the Congress.
When asked why he no longer frequented Ruggeri’s, a popular St. Louis restaurant, Yogi Berra famously replied: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Is this the fate of Mobile World Congress? I don’t think so. Hardware is clearly becoming a commodity. Until we see a new class of Post-PC wearable or sensor-based hardware, every announcement is going to be relatively uninteresting. But Mobile World Congress is a show in transition. It’s less about hardware and more about people doing business. For those who came to Barcelona with clear objectives, MWC 2013 was an unqualified success.