Monday, February 16, 2009

MWC- Live from Barcelona

The day when the mobile world congress is celebrating four billion connections, handset vendors and carriers announced a slew of new devices and initiatives. Nokia today took a step forward in implementing its services strategy when it launched its applications store called “Ovi Store”. The Ovi store aims to provide direct access to developers to Nokia’s global application market and promises a huge 70% revenue share to the developers. Given the scale of Nokia, it is likely to become the largest mobile application store in no time. The store will be unveiled in May along with N97 launch. Later in the day, Microsoft also announced its own applications store and it is rumored that Samsung will also announce its application store in the current congress. The developers are certain to be spoilt with choice

Apart from Ovi, Nokia launched new handsets – two new smart phones for business users (E55 & E75) and further updated its navigator 6710. Samsung unveiled a number of new touch screen phones as part of a strategy to implement touch technology across its portfolio. Samsung wants to take on Apple with its new strategy. It launched four new touch handsets - Omnia HD, BeatDJ, BeatDisc and Blue Earth solar powered phone. Sony Ericsson also launched its 12.1 Mega pixel phone code named Idou. Sony Ericsson also unveiled their new strategy that will bring together cell phones with PCs and the TV to share entertainment content. As part of this strategy, the company announced MediaGo, which is an extension of its PlayNow Music service. MediaGo adds a service that lets users download movies onto their PC and then transfer them over to a Sony Ericsson device. The company announced the W995 Walkman phone, which will be able play the feature-length movies. Sony Ericsson is hoping to use links with Sony but it is not clear how far will Sony go in supporting its initiatives. The joint venture between Sony and Ericsson is already under strain due to profitability issues and vastly different focus areas of the two parents. I particularly liked the launch of the green phone (solar powered) by Samsung. This technology, if made available in the entry segment has a great potential in emerging markets like India, Pakistan, African nations, China, etc.

Both Omnia and Idou are on Symbian S60 platforms which further strengthens the market leadership position of Symbian. It was interesting to note that both Samsung and Sony Ericsson have put more faith in Symbian than Windows or Android. HTC caught us flat footed by informing us that it would not be introducing any new Android OS based smart phones at this time. There had been rampant speculation that at least one new HTC built Android device would show itself, but that is not happening.

Though Android could not feature in any high profile launch, Huawei announced a smart phone based on Android platform. China Mobile adopted a more open business model with launch of Android based software platform. It also joined the host of companies launching their application stores. The launch of its own application store could be one of the reasons for China Mobile backing out from launching Apple iphone in China (Apple currently has the largest mobile application store). Not to be left behind, Vodafone announced its own branded consumer GPS phone.

Clearly, three broad themes that have emerged in MWC today are launch of application stores, focus on mobile operating systems and touch phones. It is clear that the next frontier is mobile internet services and all the players in the ecosystem are working hard to get a pie of it. Application stores, navigation and other services are the core of the services strategy of different players with mobile operating systems providing the base and touch devices making input in the phones more user friendly.

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