Mobile World Congress: Recap from American Soil

If you’ve been following the industry, you’re probably aware that Barcelona hosted the Mobile World Conference last week.

Our lead mobile developer, David Brown, had the opportunity to attend the conference and see some of the latest mobile technologies.  I had a chance to catch up with him to get his take on some of the latest trends he observed.

Brian:  Which technologies/software did people seem most excited about?  Was there a clear “winner” in terms of buzz generation?

david-brownDavid: Using your mobile phone as a full featured computer and multimedia device was clearly the most prominent topic at the Mobile World Congress. Both Nokia and Microsoft announced their mobile software market initiatives. Nokia announced the Ovi app store, adding to their internet services platform, while Microsoft will launch a similar effort, the Sky Market, later this year.  When considered along with the Android Market and Apple’s already successful AppStore, it becomes clear that the big players have decided to focus on full featured, software loaded mobile devices.  This theme was not limited to mobile phone applications; there are also several initiatives built around multimedia as well.  For example, check out Nokia’s previously announced “Comes with Music” initiative, Sony’s MediaGo, and Samsung’s Beat DJ platform. Going forward, we will see even more convergence of personal applications, media, and communications technology.

B:  As a developer/marketer, what technologies/advances were you most excited about?

D: As a developer who loves all things mobile, I am very excited to see the momentum and potential of mobile application development. The announcement of the $10 million dollar Open Screen Project Fund from Adobe Systems and Nokia left me very excited as well.  Hopefully it’ll stir up some great apps.

B:  Geo-location is one of the most exciting features on the mobile phone.  Did you see any breakthrough ideas in the space?

D: Location based applications and services continue to improve our lives. Nearly every featured device at the Mobile World Congress had GPS modules and Location Based Services (LBS). Looking at the GPS equipped Taxi cabs, automated GPS Tour Go Karts, and the handheld personal atlases that we all carry around with us everywhere we go… it is easy to recognize that Location Based Services are a major part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

B:  The idea of using our mobile phones to conduct retail transactions has been largely a pipe dream for years.  Were there any breakthroughs in the mobile commerce space that will bring this to fruition?

D: Major electronic payment service provider VISA announced several useful mobile money transfer and payment related services. Demonstrations included VISA PayWave, a secure, contactless, point of sale solution, Mobile Money Transfer, handset to handset and handset to online transactions, near real time transaction alerts, and Mobile Merchant, convenient cashless transactions on the move.

B:  Did the convention itself use mobile in an interesting way to engage the audiences?

D: Upon registering for the Mobile World Congress I received an SMS linking me to a mobile, MWC Guide. The guide contained information about the convention, exhibitors, and other pertinent details. It was nice to have this information in a self contained, portable digital medium.

B:  Finally, I’m not going to ask about iPhone killers because I think that’s silly, but did you see any ideas that have the potential to revolutionize the mobile industry the way the iPhone did 2 years ago?

D: I attribute the success of the iPhone not to its capabilities, but to Apple’s attention to design and the devices’ amazing user interface. The barrier to entry for the non tech savvy is minimal. The ease of use is consistent throughout all of the device functions. Other more capable and robust devices with advanced applications were available for quite some time before the release of the iPhone. The iPhone has caused other players in the market to reconsider the importance of usability in their offerings and provide more user friendly solutions.