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Mobile World Congress – Day 1

February 16, 2011

Martin Legowiecki, JWT Creative Technologist and roving attendee at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona flicked us an update of his first day…


My first impression is that the conference is huge. Absolutely huge. It covers several large buildings and outdoor space. Incredible architecture. The bigger companies have their own buildings but there’s a large representation of the smaller guys too.


I was impressed with Microsoft showing of their Win7 phone, and Nvidia and Android had something of a mob scene at their booth demonstrating their latest version of Android on new phones and tablets.


The first session I attended – “Making Apps Smarter” – was led by Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley; good speaker.


The panel chatter seemed to linger around security, privacy and carriers. James Parton from Telefonica O2 in the UK said his favorite app was an alarm with a snooze button that gave money to charity every time you clicked it – smart.


Mike Kirkup from RIM ran through six key points that constitute a great app (he forgot number six though). Interesting contrast against the common practice of building more, talking less – pros and cons on both sides IMO.


Next I stuck my head into “Taking Apps To The Mass Market” which had a panel of developers, carriers and manufacturers including Mary McDowell, Nokia; Caroline Lewko, WIP (who made an interesting comment early on about beta devs not being happy with the Android App market); Jim Eadie, MTV Networks; Yves Maitre, Orange and Marco Quatorze, Telcel/America Movil.


The first part was spent on defining what an “app” is. A bit wasteful perhaps considering the audience, but in the end everyone agreed that an “app” can be anything from a native app, web site, to an sms experience, etc.


There was some debate (got to love a session with debate rather than an hour of nodding agreement) as to who should make apps: developers or carriers. My personal opinion? Developers should build the apps and carriers should make it easy for them.


This led to a conversation about making money. Good argument by Quatorze – if a developer gives away their app for free, then the carrier doesn’t get anything. They want to make money – after all they provide the backbone and bandwidth. He added carriers should have a say in what prices developers charge.


There was a mention of Apple’s revenue model of 70/30. No one really said it was a model everyone should adopt, but everyone agreed that there should be different models for different channels and markets.


Last round of sessions for the day started with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s “Mobile World Live Keynote”.


This one predictably drew an enormous crowd and the incessant pushing and shoving to get in certainly set the expectation people were anticipating what he had to say.


The three things that stood out as most interesting to me in his presentation:


  • Mobile IE9. Performance is really amazing. They compared side-by-side Win7 with IE9 and iPhone 4’s Safari. Safari was chugging. If this was indeed representative of real life performance, it was amazing.

  • Kinect + Win7 phones. Awesome integration. Augment your play using your phone. Amazing.

  • Seemingly tight integration with their Azure cloud service. No need to sign up for extra features, go through different steps, your stuff is on the cloud if you want it.

Those 3 things, if realized and un-answered, I see as putting Microsoft in an excellent position in the market.


I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – Win7 UI is a beautiful example of print design but their mobile UI could used some improvement.


The new CEO of Nokia stepped on the stage and talked about the partnership and painted an analogy of it being a war of ecosystems (Apple, Google). Microsoft & Nokia needed a unified ecosystem. Microsoft needed to be on as many handsets in a lot of markets FAST. Nokia was a perfect way to that.


The last keynote speaker was Twitter’s Dick Costolo. Twitter wants to be on every device. There was talk of the collaboration between Twitter, Google and SayNow to create the speak-to-tweet feature when Twitter was cut off recently in Egypt.


Dick made a point of illustrating that Twitter is not a microblogging platform. It’s a transformational platform. From simple things that only you can relate to, to things like the situation in Egypt or the devastation in Haiti.


Dick said “you can’t connect dots looking forward, only backwards”. In other words, pay it forward. You don’t know how it will pay off. I read this as a lesson to carriers to let developers develop.


That’s it for today – overall, very happy to be here to check out hot topics in mobile.

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