I’m really going to try not to be cynical about goings on at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but it’s going to be hard. The GSMA’s premier event seems to break some record or other every year. Last year it was the number of PC thefts and pick-pocketings, which appear to have been kept in check this year. The one notable exception was Google boss, Eric Schmidt, who was reportedly ‘mugged’ by hostile questions after his keynote presentation.
This year’s record, confirmed by almost every journalist present, was the incredible number of generally useless press releases they received over the four days. I am at 1,000 and still counting. It seems every PR company waited for this event to let loose. The sheer volume alone is an indication of the improving mood of the industry, but the content was sadly lacking inspiration to make one rush to an exhibition stand and be dazzled. I’m still waiting for something like “Dog eats television after seeing dog food on 3D screen”, that would certainly get me interested!
There were really only three big news stories that grabbed the attention of the general media. The first was the announcement that twenty-four of the world’s ‘leading’ mobile operators were joining together to launch an application store that will become a mecca for apps developers and give Apple a real run for its money. I have difficulty in recalling any successful multi-operator initiative in the past but I do recall some classic failures like SimPay and mobile alliances. Who could imagine a bunch of highly aggressive mobile SPs agreeing on anything, let alone launching a successful business together. Anyway, this will likely take so long to come to fruition that apps will no longer be a ‘hot ticket’ item.
Even more perplexing was Microsoft announcing Windows Phone 7 and then telling everyone it wouldn’t be available until Christmas. Goodness me, I think I’ll camp out at my nearest phone shop now so I can be sure to be first in line to get a handset that does some of the things my iPhone has been doing for over two years!
The highlight to the long-awaited address by Google’s Eric Schmidt to telecoms operators was that he was looking forward to working with them in the future. Oh yes, most probably as their boss when he buys them out!
But the most amazing news this week was that the Mobile Industry Personality of the Year as voted for by the media went to someone not even in the industry and infamous for turning it on its head, none other than – Steve Jobs!
Hypocrisy and hot air were both alive and well in chilly Barcelona this week, and I’m really glad I didn’t come away cynical! There’s always next year…..