Mobile World Congress: Tech news and the implications for marketers

There were no female passengers on the plane. I kid you not. It could only mean I was headed for a gadget fest.

The 2008 Mobile World Congress is buzzing. No signs of a recession here. It’s particularly buzzing about, yet without mentioning, a company that's not even here. Apple.


Whilst official company statements make no comparison between Sony Ericsson's 10 new phones and the iPhone, Samsung's 8 new phones and the iPhone, or Nokia's 4 new phones and the iPhone, the overarching message is clear. The market will not coalesce on one style of phone. Variety is the spice of life. So up yours Apple.

The mobile phone, or “device” more generically, ranks amongst people's most personal possessions. It’s up there with your wallet and keys on leaving your front door, and the variations of mobile device will continue to be as diverse as the variations in everything else we consider personal. Clothes. Cars. Furniture.

Mobile devices will never share the same hardware platform, or the same software platform, but they do universally represent the greatest and most enticing conduit to the end-customer the marketer has ever known. For both B2B and B2C, for advertising, interactive dialogue and customer engagement.

The vast majority of Internet access in Japan and other leading Asian markets is already via mobile devices rather than traditional computers, and whilst the first one billion people got online with PCs, the next billion will skip straight to the phone.

Here’s a few highlights for me from the event so far; unfortunately the one I was hoping for, the rumoured Nokia E71, hasn’t materialised just yet.

The NEC femtocell – “The mobile Channel to the Home”

Fed up with UK ADSL broadband providers advertising “up to 8Mbs” and then getting 4 or 5 if you’re lucky? Well Telefonica O2 and NEC have just announced a joint venture trialing 3G femtocells in the home. Here’s some extracts from their collateral:

"Demand for 3G mobile voice and data services is accelerating. A large proportion, up to 70-80%, of these services are used indoors. However, there remain issues with 3G radio pentrating buildings.

…Femtocells offer a cost-effective alternative. A femtocell is a 3G access point which has been developed as a consumer electronic device for use in buildings. Femtocells provide low-cost dedicated 3G coverage and capacity indoors, enabling a user with an existing mobile phone to access high-quality voice and high-speed mobile data services.”

The race to provide high bandwidth, high quality, always-on connectivity, any place any time, is heating up, and reassuringly there are competing, or perhaps I should say complementary, technologies to provide this service: 3G HSPA, fibre, DSL (broadband over telephone wires), metropolitan Wi-Fi meshes, and WiMAX.

If you are interested in convergence in general, you should keep an eye on Intellect’s regular reports this year in response to BERR’s newly formed convergence think tank.

Form factors

Everyone has an opinion on brick versus clamshell. Touch screens (newly in vogue thanks to the iPhone despite the unavoidable fingerprint smudging problems). Keyboard design. Thumbwheels. Screensize. Device dimensions and weight.

It becomes rapidly obvious that, as claimed above, one size will never fit all.

Keyboards are the thing for me. Having been born early enough to have worn brown flares and cheese cloth shirts as a child, I have never been a speedy txt’er with a numeric keypad, and I’ve bloated my suit pockets with a Nokia E61 for the last 18 months just to have that qwerty convenience.

A qwerty is a must-have as far as I’m concerned if I’m going to engage in non-voice dialogue with my phone. But with the E61 and E90 too big for the pocket by 2008 standards, and no sign of the E71 yet, I’ve been scouting round for something new. The best form factor in Barcelona today for me then comes in the form of two new i-mates… the 8502 and it’s bigger brother the 9502 with slide out keyboard.


Saying that, the HTC TyTN II is pretty slick too.

So big tick-in-the-box for keyboard and form factor, but I won’t be placing an order any time soon. No-one can ever find their perfect phone, and these models are ruled out for me as I can’t get on with Windows Mobile. It just doesn’t have that Symbian quality.

Ultra-wide band (UWB)

I’m increasingly impressed with the promise of UWB. Not that this is likely to be the acronym consumers will come to know, as it looks like, for good marketing reasons, a couple of existing brands will be hijacked for the introduction of UWB enabled capability. We’re likely to see “High speed Bluetooth” even though UWB shares little in common with common-all-garden Bluetooth. And “Wireless USB”, with UWB providing the wireless bit and not the USB bit.

Artimi is the one to watch. They have earned a reputation for delivering without having over-promised. Imagine downloading a full-HD movie to your mobile device in 10 seconds for playback on a 1080p TV. Phone memory permitting, we’ll get this capability this decade. By the way, that’s my claim not necessarily Artimi’s.

Although Blu-ray appears to have won over the competing HD-DVD standard, it will be interesting to see how long we actually need physical disks with high bandwidth wireless streaming in the home.


The digital future is replete with convergent and divergent possibilities, acronyms, hyperbole, big hitters and sore losers. However things pan out, it’s clear that each and every year to come will provide new and exciting opportunities to those marketers with sufficient insight into the rapidly evolving digital world, the creativity and adaptability to develop new approaches and fresh formats to keep their campaign effectiveness ahead of the pack.