Mobile World Congress: LG, Samsung smartphones feted as industry optimism returns

POSTED BY Global Administrator
And so the Congress is over for another year, and we’re all still recovering. But, I think, the Congress itself reflected an industry which has moved beyond the recovery mode of last year, and into a state which is, if not quite flourishing, then closing in fast on that appellation. Two years ago Barcelona was not the happiest of venues. Attendance at the Congress was down and there was a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and despondency that was, in all honesty, largely justified. Last year, despite the fact that the industry had been given a welcome shot in the arm by the incipient consumer smartphone, an air of caution prevailed. But this year: it was, frankly as if the industry had been on the Red Bull; surging with adrenaline, hyperactive, buzzing, enthusiastic and – above all - optimistic. Hall 8 exemplified this. To those of you who have never been to the Congress in Barcelona, Hall 8 is the vendor hub: a bustling, raucous venue awash with handset launches, network technologies and key service innovations. It was glorious mayhem. Hundreds of suits fighting – literally, in some cases – for demonstrations of the LG Optimus 3D and the Samsung Galaxy SII and Tab. Clusters of analysts and journalists displayed levels of voluble appreciation for the exhibits on display that they’d previously only expressed for the free bars afterwards. Even the network operators – for whom the past couple of years have forced an often painful re-evaluation of their role within the mobile ecosystem – seemed relatively buoyant. There was a marvellous, spellbinding keynote at the Conference from Softbank chairman and CEO, Masayoshi Son, as he confronted the overriding problem of zero growth profitability amongst operators: while data traffic had soared – and would continue to soar, the danger was, he said, that Cisco, Apple and Google would “take all the upside”. And yet – thanks in part to aggressive marketing – Masayoshi has demonstrated that it is possible for operators to turn the corner: Vodafone Japan was floundering badly when Softbank acquired it in 2006, but the operator now has 100% 3G users and the highest proportion of non-SMS data ARPU in the world. Elsewhere at the conference – other than the small matter of a keynote by a certain Mr Schmidt – there was heightened interest in sessions on mobile advertising, healthcare, augmented reality and cloud computing, with many such sessions pleasingly packed to the rafters. In short, as the massed ranks of executives, analysts and industry scribes – footsore, weary, sleep-driven and ever so slightly hung over trooped to the serried ranks of their aircraft – most were reflecting on what was, frankly, a damn fine Congress. Click here to watch my video blog from Barcelona...