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    Mobile World Congress – How to harness the app


    With Google’s Eric Schmidt being broadcast live, and the new App Planet attracting a host of  big name players, the public face of the show looks set to be around application and service innovation. But there will be other topics up for grabs, too, reports Keith Dyer

    There was little doubt that the GSMA would make a big deal about having Google’s Eric Schmidt to speak at the show. And they have. They have taken the step of streaming his speech live from their site – the first time they have streamed live content from the conference out to the wider audience.
    Of course, to many, it will be presented as something strange, that Google should be stepping into the operators’ world. And not only is Schmidt speaking, but Google has a large presence at the newly-minted Application Planet area within the event. But the truth is that Google is increasingly being regarded as a friend of the operator. Its strategy has changed over the years, and it now perhaps has a newfound respect for what the mobile operator can bring to the table, instead of assuming that it held all the trump cards.

    Of course, the success of Apple in leading the application market, and potentially the in-app ad revenues that go with it, has led to a re-appraisal. Not only that, but Android phones have proved perhaps susprisingly popular with a public that knew the qualities and the faults of the iPhone, and was hungry for an option.

    So we have Eric Schmidt appearing as a key note speaker at the Congress, and being streamed live as he does so to the wider world. It’s also worth noting the time at which he’s going to speak – arranged as much for the US market as for the European one. That gives another indication that the GSMA sees itself as being a body that now speaks globally, as CDMA operators in the States head for LTE.

    Certainly Michael O’Hara, CMO of the GSMA, agrees that the Schmidt event is significant
    But he also points to the development of the App Planet event at the show as evidence that the vendors themselves are in need of the showcase.

    So what is happening at the App Planet? Well the GSMA has announced that there will be six application developer conferences within teh event, with participation from Google and Motorola, as well as Sony Ericsson, Vodafone, RIM and WIP.  The GSMA also announced that it is partnering with Berkeley Mobile International Collaborative to launch the global “University Mobile Challenge”, a competition designed to spur mobile application development and innovation at the university level. Additionally, the International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) announced finalists for the 6th edition of the gaming awards and will name the eight award winners at the IMGA ceremony on Monday, 15 February at App Planet.

    O’Hara said that the industry reaction to the launch had been pleasing.

    “Application development is one of the most vibrant, innovative areas within mobile today, and we’re thrilled with the early response to App Planet.”

    Of course, one of the things that having six separate application developer conferences draws attention to is the fact that  this space is currently very fragmented.

    The GSMA, O’Hara says, is committed to reducing that fragmentation, and that will be a topic at the event.

    Elsewhere, O’Hara said that he thinks the main thrusts of the event will be around the development of mobile broadband. There will be 200 million HSPA users by the time of the event, O’Hara says, and with the transition to LTE the industry is seeing connectivity go “to the next level”. The topic for those at the event, he says, is “how to enable that to happen.”

    As for GSMA-led initiatives, there was less to say. Normally we see a boost given to initiatives such as PayByMobile, or the Rich Communications Suite, or the oneAPI scheme. But either there isn’t much to be said on these, or the GSMA is keeping its powder dry, because O’Hara would only say he “expected” there would be advances to announce in all these areas.

    But what about the early news story about this show? That Nokia is not attending and that other vendors are considering their commitments.

    Well, O’Hara said that predictions are that the event will have 4% more floor space sold than last year, and also that visitor numbers will be slightly up at a total of 47,000. As for Nokia, well it still thinks enough of the event to send its networks division, and also to spend money off-site  on hospitality and meeting presence. LG too has moved to a hospitality-only model.

    “Overall I still see the strength in the show,” he says. “LG are the platinum sponsor this year, after all, it’s just that we are seeing different approaches to the event from different companies.”

    Companies to watch
    It’s hard to judge who will be of most interest, but of those companies who have publicly stated what they will be focussing on, here’s a few that we think are at the least relevant. There will of course be plenty of others in the fields we mention, but we pick these as much to illustrate the themes and topics they represent, as to recommend them as some sore of exemplar.

    One topic that is going to be doing the rounds in the OSS/BSS space is the move to subscriber-centric systems. It’s about how operators can manage the data they have to hand, to bring together data sources from different places and then to use that to inform their marketing, or offers to consumers.

    To help operators ensure successful business, Orga Systems is claiming to offer the world’s first system providing seamless subscriber notification through processing of different event sources. The solution informs subscribers in real-time about relevant account information, thus giving them full control. By using rule-based filter mechanisms the aim is to help operator create a closer customer relationship through continuous communication. This is one solution within Orga Systems’ real-time based suite of solutions for customer billing and administration.  Orga Systems will be present Hall 8, Booth 8B130.

    Openwave says that it thinks the the current ‘hot’ issues facing the industry will be:

    • The impact consumer demand is having on the industry, the growth in the use of mobile devices, and the development of mobile applications
    • How operators can manage and monetise their traffic with smart services such as context-aware traffic mediation, analytics, location information and voice solutions
    • The latest traffic and data mediation solutions which can help operators maximise bandwidth and help bridge the gap between developers and operators as we go move into a 4G marketplace

    Of course, the company is positioning itself being a player in the mobilising of the internet – with predictive solutions fueled by real-time analytics that mediate among all the different ecosystem elements, enhancing every mode of IP traffic.

    Openwave’s messaging will be that the recent explosion in demand for mobile content and data services signifies the end of a distinctly mobile web and the beginning of one web, universally available across all devices. If service providers want to compete in this new untethered, all-IP-based information age, they need more control over what’s happening in their networks.

    Growth of the mobile Internet is putting enormous pressure on traditional systems and networks, as well as the operators themselves. Not only is more data travelling through networks, but the type and size of the data is adding to the problem. This surge is causing a mobile data tsunami, which, if not addressed soon, will cause irreparable damage. Openwave says that it has been leading the debate on the data demand challenge, as well as the opportunity it affords.

    Turning down the power
    We choose this company to illustrate a continuing theme around green networking and efficient use of power supplies and resources. Nujira is to mark MWC by announcing significant progress with its power-saving technologies for the cellular base stations and handsets. On the network side, it claims it has created the world’s most efficient broadband basestation transmitter in partnership with one of the world’s leading RF PAvendors. On the handset front, it will be showing the first working silicon of the test chip to help handset PA and baseband vendors accelerate the integration of Coolteq technology into their devices.

    Of couse, many will travel to the show for a steer on the device side – specifically how services and capabilities are being integrated into devices, and which offer the best opportunity for operators to grow revenues and service penetration.

    INQ Mobile – winner of last year’s Best Mobile Handset or Device” at the GSMA awards will be back. Since then INQ has launched the follow-on INQ Mini 3G, and the INQ Chat, a full-Qwerty social mobile that integrates Facebook, Twitter, chat, Doubletwist media synching, and free push email. This year, execs will discuss their commitment to the Android platform, a move away from the “get it built” strategy that saw INQ build out its first phones on BREW. Of course, the Android focus mirrors work as Sony Ericsson, and a greater theme at the event – the increasing presence of Google.

    There is also lots of disruption is happening on the navigation/GPS front and waze is just one of many companies in the app space. waze features a free, crowdsourced, real time traffic  app that is available on most smartphones today. Location services should be one of the key topics at the show, as the pieces of the market have come together, and have been given a further boost by consumer adoption of the app model. All this, of course, and Nokia has given the space a kick up hte backside with its announcement of free Nokia Maps.

    As we mentioned in our preview, one of the issues of concern for the GSMA is the fragmentation of the applications environment, but there are companies out there making a business from ensuring that developers can address the fragmentation issue.

    Although there are some sceptics about the idea that developers can develop once and deploy everywhere, (“Develop once, fail everywhere” it has been termed) IdeaWorks 3Dwill be profiling its AirPlay SDK-which allows developers to compile the code of their apps so that the app can be deployed with a single click to all iPhone, Android, Symbian, WinMo and BREW devices.Their technology removes development costs and widens the market for apps for more than just iPhone.
    Finally – the networks themselves. With Vodafone halving the cost of its femto product, and rebranding the product to boot, there is sure to be aneven closer focus on femto. If you have questions about this sector, or wonder what the latest developments are in terms of technology integration or price points, The Femto Forum will be hosting the femtozone. The idea is that the femtozone will serve as a one-stop-shop for all visitors interested in learning about the latest developments in the femtocell industry. The event takes place as the femtocell market experiences growth around the world with 10 operators now offering services across three continents and further deployments expected shortly.

    The zone will feature a daily schedule of public presentations from operators, vendors, analysts and other industry bodies on the major opportunities and challenges facing the femtocell market. This will include an exclusive presentation from independent analysts, Signals Research Group, which has conducted extensive research into the operator business case using real world statistics from the Femto Forum’s operator members.

    It’s impossible to adequately preview this event –  merely to illustrate the potential we’ve touched on networks, devices, OSS, data optimisation, green networking and application development. Good luck in finding your own Congress.