MWC – Day 1: Highlights & Insights

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Dawood Khan, MWC, Barcelona, Feb. 14th, 2011

Microsoft, Nokia, and Twitter

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer’s message was that the mobile industry is moving from a battle for devices to a battle for platforms. He predicted 2011 to be a busier year for Windows Phone 7 than years before, especially in light of the Nokia announcement. Stephen Elop (President and CEO of Nokia) joined Steve to eco the message, saying that Nokia will drive the choice of a viable 3rd ecosystem (Google, Apple, and now Microsoft). with its choice of the Microsoft platform.  With the first Nokia Phone 7 device expected by YE 2011, he said that Nokia provides Microsoft with global reach, and Microsoft provides Nokia better access into the US market.

Thoughts: It is highly likely that Nokia will become a major player as far as Microsoft is concerned and that will give Nokia influence over Windows, which may not fit well with some of Nokia’s competitors Some wonder if other smaller OEMs will consider focusing more energy on alternatives (i.e. Android) and move away from Windows, much like they did with Symbian once Nokia started to dominate that space.

Microsoft’s message was nothing earth shatteringly new, actually, with Steve talking about voice search integrated with location, and recognition being done in the cloud, it reminded me of Google’s presentation from last year. The main message revolved around Windows Phone 7’s smart design, which makes access to information easier, and hubs, which organize information across services to enhance the experience easier.

An enhancement to smart design will be the ability for users to multi-task, allowing for users to switch between tasks while another runs in the background, for instance, play music in the background. Similar to the computer based IE 9, which uses HTML 5 to render a user experience that is tailored to the device capabilities, Microsoft announced IE 9 for the phone platform, which allows for much better rendering than existing browsers. Microsoft compared the mobile IE9 performance to an iPhone on Safari, and there was a noticeably significant difference. They also announced plans to have the mobile-phone working as a companion to Kinnect.

Microsoft seems to have integrated the cloud functionality well into the experience with both SharePoint for Office users and Skydrive for consumers.

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter #dickc

Dick’s message was simple, and in about 140 characters it is summed up as “we used to create experiences for users, now users are creating experiences for themselves”. He spoke about the vision for Twitter as creating value for users. Interestingly, only 40% of tweets are from mobile devices, I would have thought that mobile would have dominated this space, like SMS. So, to grow mobile usage, Twitter is looking to create a simpler, more engaged experience by closely working with carriers and OEMs. In order to grow international adoption, it plans to crowd source translations.

Given the recent events in the MENA region, he discussed how well Al Jazeera, the Qatari based news channel, ran its viral campaign to demand Al Jazeera in the US. He said that during the recent events in Tunesia and Egypt, Twitter and other social networks enabled people to move towards their dreams and what is meaningful to them.

There are three sources of revenue for Twitter today: promoted trends allows companies to talk about a topic that people are tweeting about; a promoted tweet allows a firm to position ads to their followers related to a search a user does; and promoted accounts allows firms to follow accounts that share their interests.

HSPA, LTE – Success, Data Usage and Spectrum

If data crunch was obvious, it was so at this year’s MWC event, where free WiFi was offered courtesy of Cisco, unlike previous years where certain types of users including analysts and the media, etc. were offered dedicated WiFi access. This resulted in issues of people trying to do updates (yes, hence the lateness :-)).

HSPA and LTE are both taking front and center this year. HSPA growth has been phenomenal, with the GSMA reporting the there are over 400 million HSPA connections globally, with 17 million new connections being added a month. Activity in evolution to HSPA+ has also been strong with 76 live networks to date and 52 launches in the works.

Carriers including Telecom Austria and Australia’s Telstra indicated that despite the rise of smartphones, smartphones represent a small portion of the overall data traffic, which is represented by dongles connected to laptops. However, what smartphones do is to add signaling load on a network when applications connect for a short time to establish a data connection. This problem will only grow with the ability to multi-task, leading to the need to quickly connect and detach from the network using fast dormancy, as well as for better optimized applications.

They also noted that with HSPA, they are finding more usage in rural areas than in urban centers, as HSPA provides a broadband connectivity choice to users. This is a trend that is largely different from adoption of previous technologies and capabilities. An analysis of DC-HSPA+ was presented, showing  throughputs close to those of LTE, promising the potential for extending the existing HSPA investments further to address the challenges faced by some operators as a result of data crunch. These technology investments were also shown to have save operators significantly on a cost per bit bases.

With LTE connections expected to rise from 4.2 M across 24 countries (YE 2011) to 300 M across 55 countries by YE 2015, the GSMA also positioned the need for LTE spectrum and proposed that 2.5 – 2.6 GHz and the 700-800 MHz bands are best suited for this. Globally harmonized spectrum is important for LTE, but its ability to support TDD and FDD operation offers carriers many options, thereby making it more challenging to harmonize globally on spectrum, despite ITU’s fore-mentioned spectrum bands suggestions.

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