Expect a host of new phones, services and other advancements to be unveiled in the next week as the first major mobile industry conference of the year kicks off. The Mobile World Congress takes place Feb. 15 - 18, hosted by the GSM Association in Barcelona, Spain. This year’s event will be more focused on applications and mobile services than the new devices that run them (although plenty will be introduced for the first time). Here's what to expect:

Virtually every major phone manufacturer is expected to unveil new phones based on the Google-powered operating system, including Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Sony Ericsson, LG, and even Dell. Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt will further cement the Android specter on the event by giving one of the keynotes. The meat of these announcements won't be the physical details of the devices, but rather the software capabilities they provide. Both Google and Motorola will be hosting developer seminars for the Android platform. It the shadow of Android will be new mobile operating systems showcased at the event, including Samsung's Bada, Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo.

Windows Mobile 7 and Zune?
Microsoft will host a press conference on Monday with CEO Steve Ballmer doing the talking. That generally means big announcements are in store. Multiple leaked reports point to an update of Windows Mobile 7, an operating system that has lost what little momentum it had in the smartphone space to the surging iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. Microsoft will have to step up its game to catch up to the pack, and speculation is that it may attempt to do so by more strongly marrying its mobile ambitions to the Zune brand. Whether that means a Zune-branded phone or just a Zune-like interface remains to be seen, although the smart money is on the latter. Either way, it makes sense for Microsoft to introduce some level of integration between the Zune service and/or the Xbox Live network.

Application developers will for the first time have their own dedicated area on the exhibit floor, called App Planet. In addition to the big handset manufacturers hosting mini developer seminars, expect a host of actual developers of all sizes using the event to show off their technology and services. Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis will make the keynote for that event on the Feb. 16.

Of great concern to the music industry is how well the wireless networks servicing these advanced new devices can handle the data transfer of all these new services and applications. Just as the term 3G finally reached mainstream awareness, expect to see a lot more talk at the conference about 4G or more specific technologies like WiMax. Look to network infrastructure provider LTE to take the lead in this area with some exciting new announcements and technology demos.