MADRID - The wireless industry turns its attention to Barcelona this week as the Mobile World Congress kicked off Monday, promising potentially game-changing announcements and glimpses of flashy technology to shape how mobile devices are used.
The event, which runs Feb. 27- March 1, lists panels and keynote speakers drawing from the top ranks of the most prominent names in the wireless community--with AT&T Mobility president & CEO Ralph de la Vega, China Mobile president Li Yue and Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao launching the opening session Monday. Some 3000 CEOs are scheduled to attend.
Half a dozen Android smart phones from Sony, HTC and Samsung stole the spotlight on the first day--though, noticeably absent was a smartphone running on Mircrosoft Windows platform. Buzz whirled around splashy gadgets like underwater phones, wrist phones and scratch-proof screens.
Every year in Barcelona, the GSMA parades its ability to spotlight each aspect of the mobile value chain of an industry that -- according to a GSMA study released Monday--expects to reach 24 billion mobile devices worldwide by 2020, with new revenue streams and improved services predicted to be worth as much as $4.5 trillion.
"Today the connected devices market is dominated by mobile phones, but this will change in the future as a new wave of smartphones, tablets, consumer electronics and M2M devices connect everything from cars to health services and even entire cities," said Michael O'Hara, chief marketing officer, GSMA
Organizers expect more than 60,000 to attend-approximately the same as last year and more than 1,400 exhibitors are set to show their wares at the fair.
If last year, the world's largest wireless event was mobile advertising and how to engage rather than intrude, this year's wireless event seems far more about the transformative role mobile powered branding is playing.
The newly created mPowered Brand section looks to accelerate marketers' knowledge of how to incorporate affinity-building devices mobile marketing solutions via an exclusive exhibitor zone and a program offering workshops, seminars and keynotes weaving together marketers, ad agencies, media groups and telecoms.
"The consumer desires and requires a seamless, continuous and personalized brand experience," explained Melendy Britt, creative director, Brand Experience at Weber Shandwick. "The mobile channel is now the ultimate in proximity positioning. Close to skin, it is held close to their consumer mind and heart. Brands who aren't there risk being forgotten or even worse, written off."
Some of the other segments of the mobile market to find a place at the confab, in addition to health, finance and education are
• Mobile clouds permeate the daily agenda with seminars on future homes' use of clouds, network intelligence and the competitive landscape for content.
• Mobile ecosystems discussions will address privacy design concerns, how to drive demand for services, eroding consumer trust and socio economic benefits.
• Mobile advertisers will address how to harness social media, penetrating emerging markets and how operators can exploit their subscriber data to root themselves in the mobile advertising value chain and help deliver relevant ads.