Next week, the GSMA Mobile World Congress will attract around 50,000 attendees to discuss a potential new business model for the mobile industry.
One of the conference’s main themes is expected to be how hardware and software can be integrated closer together.
Manufacturers are expected to reveal new smartphones – the market area with the most growth potential – alongside new services and platforms.
The exhibition, which takes place in Barcelona from 16–19 February, will place platforms such as the Android, Microsoft and Symbian at the top of its agenda. The current economic climate, and industry measures that can be taken to improve consumer spending within this context, will provide a backdrop.
Another key topic will be the growing importance of music within the industry. The organisers are set to hold a dedicated one-day conference, called Mobile Backstage, which will look at how various elements of new web and cellular technology is affecting the needs of the consumer.
Speakers at the music conference will include Black Eyed Peas singer Will.i.am, actor Kevin Spacey, chief executive of MySpace Chris De Wolfe, and Nokia’s head of global music, Elizabeth Schimel.
Fewer delegates than last year are expected, with all businesses cutting back on anything considered to be a financial extravagance. But it will be fascinating to learn about new models, products and strategies as companies reveal how they plan to cope with the upcoming 12 months.
This year’s conference will also be characterised by the former peripheral companies, RIM, HTC and Huawei, stepping into the spotlight. There is also expected to be the appearance of some new names to mobile: Acer, Asus, INQ and Hyundai.
One name that will continue to be in many discussions, but will not make an appearance, is Apple.
What will the manufacturers be talking about?
Nokia entered the touch-screen market last month with its 5800 model. The manufacturer has said it will reveal further mid to high-end devices at Mobile World Congress. It added that more services would also be announced, as it adjusts its strategy to move into the field. Nokia is expected to reveal more handsets with Comes With Music, and is likely to unveil an enhanced version of its mapping services that will also be introduced to a wider range of devices. In addition, there is a strong expectation that Nokia will take on BlackBerry with mobile email devices. Its current ‘mail for exchange’ services will be simplified and be given mass market appeal.
Sony Ericsson said it would be revealing details of content services and ‘how they can be integrated with the handset’. Its products will be carefully scrutinised by buyers and analysts, with many believing that 2009 represents a potential do or die year for the manufacturer. The CEO, Dick Komiyama, indicated that Sony Ericsson would be looking at high-end handsets to reverse its performance. In 2008, Sony Ericsson produced some derivative products from its previous Walkman and Cyber-shot devices, as well as unveiling the niche Xperia X1.
INQ is expected to make its first visible entry into the handset market at MWC. The company backed by Hutchison Whampoa is likely to showcase its INQ1 handset as well as successor products. INQ is producing cheap handsets that are pitched at operators looking to bring more consumers to use services such as Facebook and MSN Messenger.
LG will announce ‘a couple’ of new handsets, alongside its new strategy. The manufacturer is expected to reveal a move away from top-end, high-specification handsets, to focus on mid-range phones that can be given away for free on low-end tariffs.
LG said in December that it plans to generate half of its sales from high-end phones in 2009, while mid-tier and low-end phones will take up 30% and 20% respectively. The manufacturer plans to be ‘more competitive’, with a sales target of over 10 million units globally next year. It also hopes to raise its market share amid the growing economic downturn, from 8% to 10% in 2009. At Mobile World Congress, LG will be looking at platform development, which will include what it calls a ‘multi-platform approach’.
Motorola has said it will not announce any ‘big news’ at Mobile World Congress, further underlining its mothballing strategy for the bulk of this year. The manufacturer has already revealed plans to concentrate on high-end devices in 2009. Discussions around the Android platform are expected, and Motorola will unveil further plans to bring out phones with the platform in 2009. But with no handsets to showcase it will be interesting to see how prominent its stand will be, if it has one at all.
Meanwhile, Samsung is expected to announce a new mobile application store. It will be wider in scope than its existing store front, which sells applications for phones using the Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems. It is expected that the new plans will involve the US market and will include more operating systems. The service will take on Apple’s iPhone App store, RIM BlackBerry’s Application Centre, Nokia’s Ovi and Microsoft’s SkyMarket – which is also expected to launch in that week.
HTC is the manufacturer of emergence. It is expected to announce news around its Google phone and Android application. HTC is now producing better-looking phones, putting pressure on BlackBerry.
Google and Yahoo!
Google has said although it will have speakers at Mobile World Congress, it will not be adding to the ‘big news’ of the Latitude programme, which it released last week. The Latitude ‘tracking’ programme (right) fits perfectly with Mobile World Congress’ theme of connecting services to devices. The feature allows mobile phone users to locate friends and family from software installed on a handset. Users can turn the tracking software on and off to choose when they can be seen. Meanwhile, the company said that ‘several more’ Android phones should be expected this year.
Yahoo! will announce new mobile products at Mobile World Congress, designed to allow consumers to ‘keep in touch with the people they care about and the information that matters to them on the move’. The new services are intended to build on Yahoo!’s current mobile offering, including Yahoo! oneSearch – the company’s mobile search service, which currently powers search for O2, T-Mobile, 3, Virgin and Orange customers in the UK.