A look ahead at what's in store for Mobile World Congress


My mother died recently. She was close to 82 years old and not very tech savvy. During the final eight months of her lifetime, when she got ill and became weaker, the mobile phone was her most treasured belonging.

Her phone was an old Nokia from back in the days before the iPhone — when Nokia phones were the equivalent of a Kalashnikov among firearms — durable and always reliable in the line of fire, so the battery practically lasted forever if you were not talking. That was hard to believe for her. She was very stubborn, my mother, and it took me some time and effort to convince her not to turn the phone off when she wasn't using it. “How am I gonna be able to check how you are if it's always off?” was the argument that finally changed her mind.

During the last eight months of her life, the mobile was always on. It was always next to her bed. And up until the very last few days, she always answered.

Of course, this is on my mind — even as we're approaching the Mobile World Congress with all the important news and trends that will soon be all over media. But I still think it is relevant to share some soft thoughts, far from software, on why the mobile phone is such an important platform for media companies. It is about that one simple thing: bringing personalised news directly to me faster and whenever I want and wherever I am. Bringing it the way it's most convenient: text, photos, video. Or voice. “How are you today, Mom?”

Sometimes we get so entrenched in the hype of new devices and even smarter phones and all the amazing technology that we tend to forget what made media an important part of society.

“It's about being the connective tissue in the community,” my friend, Bob Cauthorn, entrepreneur, visionary, and consultant, says when the subject of declining readership and failing newspapers are being discussed. “Media companies have stopped being the connective tissue in the community,” he warns.

Mobile devices — with their unique combination of location, personalisation, contextual relevance, and timing — could and should be vehicles for media companies to regain that place in the community. But to do that you have to be able to create new services and not just redistribute the same content that was tailor-made for other platforms. As Steve Jobs put it in an interview in February 2003, when Apple was on its way out of a crisis (remember, huh?!): “The way we're going to survive is to innovate our way out of this.”

Now let's turn our heads to the main event this month: Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (February 27-March 1). As always, the 2012 edition will be even bigger and badder than the previous ones, exceeding last year's 60,000 delegates from more than 200 countries and, in just four days, adding more than ?275 million to the suffering Spanish economy where unemployment is hitting 23%.

From a media perspective, here are some expectations for the upcoming mega event:

With mobile ad spending soaring — an 89% increase in 2012 to an estimated US$2.61 billion in the United States (source: eMarketer) — I expect the advertising sessions to be more creative and useful than in the past. During the three years I've attended the Mobile World Congress, it was only back in 2009 that the sessions about mobile advertising had any vision and new thoughts.

Connected world
The Connected House premiered last year at the MWC. It is literally a house full of cutting-edge products and experiences that reveal a future where everyone and everything will be connected, a vision for 2020, all under one roof. I'm curious to see how traffic jams may become a thing of the past, how you can make your home smarter or avoid the doctor’s surgery. Today's paradigm involves having a mobile device everywhere, all the time. Tomorrow's paradigm will see multiple mobile devices — and all other devices — connected and communicating. Everything will be connected.

Mobile payments
In my previous blog post, I wrote that mobile commerce will change the nature of advertising for media companies . Mobile payments is one of the key factors driving m-commerce forward, so it will be interesting to see the latest developments.

Mobile world capital
Barcelona has been selected Mobile World Capital from 2012 to 2018. Apart from hosting the MWC, it is also a promise to develop a range of other programmes and activities that will evolve during the entire year and will benefit not only Barcelona and Spain, but also the mobile industry. So far we haven't heard much more about what they actually will do, but it is promised to be revealed during the congress. An infrastructural project like that is bound to have influences on media companies, as well.

But, as we speak, the story in local news media is whether Barcelona will be Immobile World Capital during the congress; the unions of the public transportation system have called for a general strike during the course of the congress, to protest salary cutbacks.

Innovative apps and services
The winners of the Global Mobile Awards will be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress. With a record of 600 entries to this year's awards, there are 158 organisations on the shortlist of nominees. Let's see what media companies can learn from the innovators.

The big surprise
In 2010, the Big Surprise was CEO Eric Schmidt announcing Google's completely new strategy: mobile first. Last year it was Microsoft and Nokia breaking the news of their partnership. What will this year bring?

Here's a video link to see what some of the analysts preview.

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