Mobile World Congress has wrapped up and most of us are back home after spending four days at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona.
Between delivering presentations, walking miles of expo halls, and participating in dozens of meetings, the event is both exciting and tiring. This conference used to be the sole domain of mobile operators, wireless equipment manufacturers, and handset makers. Something has changed…
Mobile is no longer this fringe technology that lives on the outskirts of mainstream computing and communications technology. It is now the primary technology used by consumers and corporations to get things done and stay productive and connected. With 72,000 people in attendance, this is now one of the largest and most important technology conferences in the world. Yes, the CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs of many of the worlds largest corporations were in attendance along with consulting firms looking to transform those organizations into mobile enterprises. There’s no doubt about it, I could definitely feel the increased enterprise importance all around Fira Gran Via.
So what did I see…
If there was any doubt that 2013 was going to be the year of the Phablet, MWC put those fears to rest. Launches of giant Android smartphones to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Note II included:
- The 5.5″ LG Optimus G Pro
- The 5.7″ ZTE Grand Memo
- The 5″ Sony Xperia Z
- The 6.1″ Huawei Ascend Mate
In the “not-quite-a-phablet” category, there were quite a few Android devices launched that were virtually indistinguishable from each other. I’m not advocating fragmentation, but I wasn’t jazzed by the sea of sameness represented by all these Android clones.
The only Android standout this year was the HTC One. Its truly beautiful hardware design combined with a home screen that mimics Windows Phone start screen tiles, sets it apart from its Jelly Bean competitors. Flattery I guess.
Tablets were getting smaller and I really liked the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with the S-Pen. It was thin, light, easy to hold, super fast and it’s definitely going to give the iPad Mini a run for its money. On the opposite end of the spectrum, HP showed off its forgettable Slate 7 Android tablet to compete against the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 in a race to the bottom. Personally, I always believed HP should have doubled-down on the innovative webOS that it paid almost $2 billion for. Instead, it unloaded this asset on LG on the first day of the conference. Can you imagine how fast the beautiful webOS would run on today’s multicore ARM processors?
Speaking of web-based mobile operating systems, Mozilla managed to line up 17 mobile operators to support its Firefox OS running on devices from LG, ZTE, and others. It’s targeting low-end devices in emerging markets with low-cost phones. It’s not a bad strategy, but they still have a lot of work to do because I found their demo devices to be both slow and unattractive. On the other hand, I found the Ubuntu Touch phone and tablet to be attractive, differentiated, and very responsive. It will definitely be a strong competitor once it gets off the ground.
In hearing the call to reach out to the “next billion” people in developing markets, Nokia launched a range of devices at progressively lower price points. From the Nokia 105 feature phone at under $20 up through the entry-level Lumia 520 Windows Phone, to the mid-range Lumia 720, Nokia made some important moves to diversify its portfolio with delightful devices.
Anyone who walked the halls of the Fira Gran Via couldn’t miss the overwhelming presence of Samsung at this event. They were most definitely the 800-pound gorilla of the show and synonymous with the success of Android in the consumer space. It’s clear that being the leader in the consumer space is no longer enough for them. They’ve recognized the Android security shortcomings that have kept this mobile OS out of the enterprise and they’re doing something about it. Following on the heels of Samsung For Enterprise (SAFE), at MWC they launched Samsung Knox.
From my vantage point as an enterprise mobility strategist, the launch of Samsung Knox is the single most impactful event this year in Barcelona. Samsung has introduced a dual-persona phone technology that may help Android break into the enterprise. Users can easily switch between the personal side of their phone to a separate, encrypted container for business. Unlike other containerization solutions, this one runs fast and the email, calendar, and apps look familiar to users of the Samsung Touchwiz user interface. Combined with the fact that the leaders from the MDM magic-quadrant were already offering secure, private app distribution solutions based on the Knox APIs, Samsung has a formidable solution for the enterprise.
I really enjoyed co-presenting with my Microsoft colleagues Andy Wigley and Larry Lieberman at the Nokia App Developer Conference on day 1 of MWC. Helping to empower developers from all over the world to do their best work targeting Windows Phone 8 is very rewarding.
Later in the week I had the privilege of serving on a panel with Benjamin Robbins, Vishy Gopalakrishna, and Ben Smith where we discussed “The Future of Enterprise Mobility.” We tackled subjects such as mobile security, BYOD, enterprise apps, the roles of mobile centers of excellence, and how to enable legacy apps for mobile consumption. I even coined the term “MSOA” which stands for Mobile Service Oriented Architecture. In other words, it’s time to replace those SOAP and XML web services with lightweight REST and JSON services + caching and compression to better serve all mobile devices over unpredictable wireless data networks.
See you in Barcelona next year,