It's February and in the technology world that can only mean one thing: Mobile World Congress, or the GSMA GSM Association Mobile. WorldCongress to use the name - and bizarre formatting - no-one ever does. So what is it and what can we expect from MWC 2010?
In short Mobile World Congress is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry. It is where handset makers, networks, application and service providers all converge to pitch their latest wares. Think of it as the CeBIT or CES for all things mobile. First held waaaay back in 1987, MWC was long based in Cannes, but moved to Barcelona in 2006 as numbers grew ever larger. Approximately 1,400 companies will attend this year, spread out over 29,000m2 inside the grand Fira de Barcelona exhibition centre (entrance pictured below).
Enough backgrounder, what can we expect to see? The first thing I'd get out the way is a lot of things we've already seen. That is, with the free-for-all nature of MWC many companies have taken to announcing their products slightly ahead of the conference itself. This list includes LG with the Mini GD880 and Cookie Plus, the Samsung M100 and Monte S5620, Garmin-Asus A50 and M10, Motorola Devour, Nokia 16GB X6, Sony Ericsson Aspen and Vivaz, plus Windows Mobile 6.5.3. You get my point.
Needless to say, we won't be covering the same things twice unless something really catches our eye when we get a hands-on. This is because - despite such a huge list - we expect a lot more surprises to come out during MWC 2010, the biggest of which is open secret Windows Mobile 7 (potentially 'Windows Phone 7 Series' it is rumoured). Whatever the name, however, WM7 represents Microsoft's last major chance to claw back its fast disappearing market share in the mobile space. The OS has underperformed for years now and given any v8.0 would take considerable time to release this could be do or die for the Redmond giant. Expect a more Zune-like, consumer orientated, finger friendly platform - possibly a business edition - and let's hope Microsoft can pull this one out of the fire. Competition is good people, and in their favour Microsoft's platforms are more open than most.
Another OS hoping to make a splash is bada from Samsung. I've yet to be convinced by practicality of a manufacturer driven mass market platform (Samsung isn't Apple or RIM, nor will it ever be), but we'll keep an open mind.
Elsewhere HTC is poised to make quite a splash with new Android and Windows Mobile handsets. In particular watch out for it and other manufacturers starting a new trend of Nexus One variants complete with 2.1-update1 multi-touch and enlarged 3.7in displays. After all, copying the iPhone has become sooo 2009. BlackBerry also claims it will have something interesting to say, though we heard rumblings it may be more to do with services and software (a new BlackBerry OS?) than specific new handsets.
The other major focus with be about LTE (Long Term Evolution), also incorrectly referred to as 4G (it is the final variant of 3G). We've been talking about LTE for some time now, but 2010 does appear to be the year major networks are looking to deploy on a grand scale. In this UK this could take until 2011 unless you're on a premium tariff, but with it set to increase cell tower bandwidth from 7.2Mbit/sec to 130-160Mbit/sec (in just its first iteration) the benefits, and why people are excited, should be clear to all. If you want to swot up on LTE, my interview with the UMTS Forum should provide everything you need to know.
Finally, expect a new (and long overdue) focus on call quality. If anything our call quality has gone down over recent years as networks become overloaded with subscribers and pillaged by heavy data usage. Deployment of LTE will help this significantly, but promotion of femtocell technologies such as Vodafone Sure Signal and cheap home signal boosters should also be all the rage.
In addition to all this, let's hope we find a few surprises along the way. Perhaps in terms of a mobile chipsets (more gigahertz, more powerful video performance), solar power and wireless (or at least contact-based) charging.
What will be on everyone's lips come the end of MWC 2010? My predictions are AMOLED, Multi-touch, femtocell, LTE, Solar, Android and Windows Phone Series 7. Let downs? I'm going for Samsung bada, sorry guys.