Mobile World Congress


At the close of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I took some time away from the show floor to recap some of the key mobile industry trends, developments and themes that have emerged at this year’s show.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Nokia has begun its campaign to re-imagine itself at Mobile World Congress and is looking to become the most operator-friendly smartphone vendor

The news of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft seems to be sinking in at Mobile World Congress. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop continues to appear throughout the event to again tell people why this move makes sense. He’s confident in his messaging and delivering it clearly but his enthusiastic explanations don’t do the scope of the announcement justice.

Elop declared at Monday’s keynote presentation: "A battle of devices is shifting to a war of ecosystems.”

This signals a move in the market that has been coming into focus in 2010 with the emergence of Android as a true force in the smartphone market. Throughout Mobile World Congress, Elop has been banging the “three-horse race” messaging hard and Windows Phone 7 with Nokia’s reach will create a third combatant in the smartphone market. This will be a definite but distant third player and one that will have to make a pretty drastic statement when they finally bring a device to market.

Jo Harlow, senior vice president marketing at Nokia Mobile Phones, has hinted that this will be within 2011 but her statement was definitely not a guarantee.

Operator Friendly

What has been interesting since the initial announcement Friday night, where Elop said he’d been on the phone with European operators reassuring them, is the operator-friendly message that Elop has been emphasizing. Elop seems to be carving the smartphone market up and putting Nokia on the side of the operator and its business model.

Operators are in a unique position and need all of the help they can get to retain revenue and take some control back in the market they brought to life. If you are an operator you see Apple taking market share in areas you’d like to excel in while Google has seen Android explode in 2010 and at the same time a revenue hog on the web. In the smartphone market these two players are in a luxurious position as operators grasp at different ways to answer the “dumb pipe” question.

Nokia and Microsoft have the opportunity to be the shoulder to cry for operators that have seen opportunities squander elsewhere. iPhone is established and Android is a force in the market as we have seen throughout Mobile World Congress with this additional platform creating, what Nokia says, will be more competition and choice for operators.

Elop explicitly addressed the operator community during the Microsoft keynote on Monday and let them know that Nokia’s new partnership will create the most operator-friendly smartphone platform in the market. He added that Nokia and Microsoft would help operators to retain and drive revenue, which aren’t likely goals for Apple.

Elop said: “We understand what it means to be friendly to operators."

This kind of messaging plays into Nokia’s history of strong partnerships with its operator partners and broadly makes sense but looking at another aspectof Nokia’s business you wonder if Nokia needs to focus on the smartphone market. The company has shown its strength around the world with feature phones and is still a force in the market even though it may not appear to be an innovator any longer.

Peters Suh, CEO of Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) noted in an application-focused keynote panel that Nokia has between 30%-40% global market share in handsets, which he then followed up by saying, “but I’m not sure that the smartphone market is a global phenomenon”. This is a fair statement as emerging markets with limited mobile coverage may struggle to take advantage of advanced features.

Feature Phones Not Its Future?

Suh was highlighting that perhaps this doesn’t play to Nokia’s overall position or strengths in the mobile market. It may not want to play the role of emerging market or feature phone vendor but that may be what it is good at. Nokia has been looking for an identity for some time and this move has not brought anymore clarity into play.

What is clear is Elop may be playing to operators now but eventually Nokia will need to attract consumers and prove to them that its Windows Phone 7 devices are not just operator friendly but customer friendly as well.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes the goal for Twitter is to be like water, to be immediately available and instantly useful.

Twitter has taken a mainstream role in pop culture but its CEO is striving to improve the service and have it reach more devices and engage more people.

Dick Costolo outlined Twitter’s goals, achievements and meaning at Mobile World Congress 2011 comparing the information network to the ubiquitous and usefulness of water. He said he wants Twitter to have the same functionality on every device, anywhere, adding that the Twitter experience isn’t the same on iPhone, Blackberry and Android. Costolo compared this to using a shower saying every time we use a different shower we don’t have to relearn how to use water.

 

Simple and Useful

"Our goals this year are that Twitter will be instantly useful. We want you to get a meaningful timeline right away," said Costolo. "We want the experience to be the same. I shouldn’t have to think about how to use Twitter…We want deep integrations into the platform. When you take a picture with a camera phone, you shouldn’t have to switch applications to tweet that photo."

He highlighted the importance of the mobile experience for Twitter users and noted that 40% of tweets are from mobile devices with 50% of Twitter users using multiple platforms.

Costolo continued the water analogy in explaining the meaning of Twitter and saying each tweet was like rain drop. There are billions of them but a single rain drop can hold tremendous meaning for some but nothing for others.

He said, “Some tweets are purely social and don’t have any extra meaning. This is where we’ve been criticized. What these criticisms miss is the distinctly personal connection of these tweets."

What Twitter has carved or stumbled upon is social context and how important that is for people as they sift through the mountains of data that appear in front of us everyday. As we try to make sense of all of this data, we need to shape it and contextualize it in order to evaluate it and give it meaning.

Costolo said the goal is to be simple and that is because Twitters users give order to their own universe and can constantly evolve their experience through following and unfollowing other Twitter users. Costolo sounds if he wants Twitter to be the least of the focus as its user focus on shaping their connections and interests into a service tailored to them. This ties into his ideas about deep platform integration noting that the Twitter just needs to work from smart devices to basic handsets with SMS services.

Costolo said: “With just a few social connections, a user is far more likely to become an engaged user. One of the things we have to do this year is shorten the distance between ‘awareness of Twitter’ and ‘engaged on Twitter.”

Revenue Through Engagement

This level of engagement is important to Twitter from a financial perspective as it is helping brands get in front of the right people with the right products and services but it will need to understand its users betters. Users that join Twitter and use it as a listening device are far less valuable to the company then people who are actively engaging with their community.

Costolo added that Twitter is making money. While that may be a vague statement, he certainly sounded like he understands his product and is clear on how he’d like to see the business grow.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Nokia Siemens Networks grows its mobile solutions capabilities with a partnership with mobile commerce specialist, MoreMagic.

The companies announced the partnership at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and have jointly developed “Mobile Payment Solution”, which enables the delivery of a range of services including money transfer, mobile banking, mobile payments as well as near field communications (NFC).

Rick Centeno, head of charging, billing and care at Nokia Siemens Networks, said: “We are very excited about the growth in the mobile payments space in general and about mobile money and NFC payments in particular. Our partnership with MoreMagic provides us with a flexible architecture that integrates very well with our flagship products. The combination of MoreMagic solutions with Nokia Siemens Networks’ integrated Subscriber Data Management, Identity Management and Unified Charging provides a comprehensive set of Mobile Payment Solutions in this innovative market segment.”

The joint Mobile Payment Solution interconnects consumers, mobile operators, financial institutions, retailers, agents and other members of the mobile commerce and financial services value chain to enable seamless monetary transactions. This is an ideal solution for emerging markets where the industry has already seen mobile money uptake.

Nokia Siemens Networks is trialing mobile payment solutions in Libya with Libya Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology Holding Company in collaboration with Madar and Libyana, the two leading mobile operators in Libya. The Project which is set to run over a period of four months, will provide customers with easy, secure and convenient access to basic financial services which has previously been enjoyed only by a small percentage of the population and access to NFC proximity payments for purchasing anywhere at anytime.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_telecom

 

Ericsson launches a cloud-based machine-to-machine communications platform to help telecoms operators connect more than just laptops and smartphones.

The company believes that more than 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020 and that its Ericsson Device Connection Platform can help operators to quickly deliver M2M solutions to their enterprise customers. Ericsson’s platform will be offered using a Software as a Service (SaaS) model that it believes will minimize barriers to entry in the M2M market.

“We envision a world with 50 billion connected devices in 2020, where everything that benefits from a connection will be connected,” said Magnus Furustam, Vice President, head of Core & IMS at Ericsson. “To get there, Ericsson is working with telecom operators, selected industry verticals and other players across the M2M value chain to create world-leading, innovative technology and sustainable business solutions.”

Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform primarily makes it possible to create tailored connectivity and price plans for M2M services. Ericsson will help telecoms operators to offer enterprise customers a self-service interface, flexible billing, charging and connectivity plans for all devices connected to the network.

“The platform will help operators deliver solutions for devices and applications that have diverse connectivity needs, ranging from sending a single business critical SMS to high-quality video surveillance via the mobile network. Ericsson’s Device Connection Platform addresses these needs and is there to support operators in developing their business in new areas,” said Furustam.

The service will allow telco customers to manage their subscriptions and devices in real time.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

 

Kevin Bossi, SVP at Edelman UK and 10 year veteran of Mobile World Congress shares his thoughts on past congresses and looks forward to Mobile World Congress 2011.

Edelman’s Kevin Bossi Discussing Mobile World Congress 2011

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

Last year’s Mobile World Congress was greeted with cautious optimism that has since been replaced by real enthusiasm within an industry that continues to explore its potential

In preparing for this year’s Mobile World Congress I’ve been taking a look at the trends and insights that emerged from last year’s congress and seeing how far the mobile industry has come since then.

Edelman’s Kevin Bossi noted that last year’s event was approached with a kind of cautious optimism that was understandable after a year in 2009 that showed growth in mobile data services but financial instability around the world.

In 2011, this cautious optimism has given way to real excitement around a mobile market that is continually pushing its boundaries and seen as a driver for social and economic development. As ever the scope of the industry continues to grow and this offers up opportunities at the same time raising questions about how businesses define themselves.

The trends and themes from last year’s Mobile World Congress point to an industry that is reaching deeper into the lives of consumers while still exploring how far existing and new technologies can be pushed.

New Enthusiasm, Old Challenges

There has been excitement around new developments in devices with tablet computing taking hold in the market and new networking technologies like LTE hopefully solving mobile data challenges. Apps and gaming have also shown that the opportunities within the mobile market are still vast and not always easy to predict.

From looking at these innovations and the trends from MWC10, the question of the operators’ role in the mobile ecosystem is still one that has yet to be answered. It isn’t an easy question and one that is becoming even more difficult to answer. Pricing, bundled services and increased penetration won’t be generating buzz in the exhibition hall but they are all very real for operators as they try to convert network traffic into revenue gains. Operators have an uncertain future as they watch a vibrant market and seek to carve out a leadership role in it.

What is certain is that the mobile industry as a whole is being seen as a force for good. Mobile Money services are expanding as operators partner across verticals, mHealth is bringing efficiency to healthcare while the increased depth of wireless networking and affordable handsets bring more people online. While the buzz amongst technology journalists has been about the role of mobile phone and social networking in uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, they are already being used in the democratic process in Africa particularly in Uganda as well as regions across the continent.

Lessons to Learn

Emerging markets aren’t just taking advantage of new services as we saw at MWC10. Some of the largest brand presence at the event were from vendors and operators from outside of Europe and North America. Expect to see Huawei , ZTE, HTC on the hardware side and China Telecom, Bharti Airtel and Turkcell to be well represented again this year. Revelations about the Chinese government’s aid to its equipment vendor was not surprising and will not slow these companies down as they continue to take market share from Western mainstays in the equipment market.

What will be exciting is to see what lesson both operators and manufactures from emerging markets have to teach the industry about new services and what they see sustaining growth in the future. Players in emerging market will have some distinct lessons to share and it plays into an overall theme of this year’s congress. While technology is certainly at the core of the mobile industry, meeting the unique needs of different markets, communities and ultimately consumers is its goal.

A User-Centric Congress

Since last year’s congress there has been an increasing shift toward the user with a stronger emphasis on how people are using new technologies not just the technologies themselves. Consumers are more frequently asking themselves, “What can this technology do for me? What need does it meet and how does it improve the way I’m living my life?”

The tablet computing market has shown just how important it is to explain the usage scenarios of a device, not just the device capabilities. That is at least for competitors to the iPad that need a strong rational for why their device is superior and best meets the needs of the consumer.

Nowhere is the user more important than in the app market. MWC10 was awash with talk about apps ranging from mHealth to social media and what will be the next Angry Birds. The proliferation of apps and smartphones have allowed for greater levels of customization and allowed devices to offer suites services that can define a user’s experience.

More than ever it feels like the consumer is able to shape the future of the market and we’ll see this theme play out along side announcements around tablet computing, near field communications, LTE and gaming. All facets of the mobile industry from devices, the network and apps are all showing us something new and hopefully we’ll see a few surprises at this year’s event.

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

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