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

On the second day of Mobile World Congress 2011, the event hosted an operator keynote panel. This keynote panel session included insights on a broad range of topics across the mobile market. Here are some short highlights from the panel:

  • Audioboo: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, gives predictions for mobile penetration http://boo.fm/b278532

  • Audioboo: Daniel Hajj, American Movil, gives an overview of the Latam mobile Market. http://boo.fm/b278441

  • Audioboo: Wang Jianzhou, Chairman & CEO, China Mobile talks about the explosion in mobile data. http://boo.fm/b278425

@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

Almost 60,000 attendees, 2500 media and a press office the size of half a football pitch…just how do you get your message across at the now (in)famous Mobile World Congress held every February in Barcelona?

Well its simple isn’t it:

You use a large PR machine that throws enormous amounts of time, resource and money at the challenge. You only start talking to your audiences five days before the event and are mystified why they are too busy to talk back to you.

You fire a shotgun of (sometimes irrelevant) information at the over worked, over tired, mostly non-mobile savvy and almost certainly hungover journos in the vain hope some of it might stick. It’s the media relations campaign with the turning circle of an oil tanker.

And guess what? It happens every year without fail; Armies of PRs dotted all over the outer limits of Barcelona in, let’s say, somewhat questionable accommodation (amazing considering they booked it in January!!!) living on bottled water, bread, cured meats and Cava.

Here are our tips to consider at this stage in your congress preparation …

1. Rebook your hotel for the next year as you leave the hotel on the Saturday.
2. Hire a private driver for the entire congress which is much cheaper than taxis in the long run… and there is a good chance that the driver will actually be there.
3. Have people on the ground that speak Spanish and liaise directly with the local council and suppliers
4. It’s a great help to work with people who have been attending congress since mobile phones came in any colour as long as its black and the future was very very bright

We’d welcome your thoughts on MWC preparations and horror stories from years gone by……..

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