Reflections on MWC 2011

So another Mobile Word Congress has been and (almost) gone, so what did we make of it. Here are some random observations from the back of a cab on the way to the airport.

It was great to see Google dip its hands into those deep pockets and spend some money on a stand. Some people accuse the company of being slightly arrogant in its approach to marketing – “We don’t need to do any” – but no-one who visited the Android stand in Hall 8, with the pods showcasing apps and services from around 80 Android developers, can fail to have been impressed with the show Google put on. The concept is not original – BlackBerry has been doing something similar for a year or two – but the execution was flawless.

I didn’t book a lot of meetings this year, but two that I did left their mark. Hiplogic showed me its Spark app, which hijacks the user interface of an Android phone and gives you a better one, with news and social networking feeds. The company monetises the app through ads, and a neat app promotion mechanic. Apps are listed in alphabetical order, but companies can pay for a listing on the top row of the screen, a bit like the paid search results you see when you do a Google search.

All the other apps on the screen are the ones installed on the user’s handset; the ones on the top row are the ones vying for a place on the handset.

HipLogics CEO told me that Hiplogic Live, the previous incarnation of the app, has seen half a million downloads in the first six months, and that Spark had usurped this in the first two months. It looked neat to me; if you have an Android phone, I’d suggest you give it a go.

Yesterday, I visited the Acision stand, where the company was belting out the same message as last year: that operators don’t need to just increase their capacity, but make better use of the bandwidth they already have. Acision product marketing manager Bob Hendriks showed me stats from research conducted by the company that revealed that 60 per cent of consumers would be happy for their operator to compress videos they downloaded if it meant that the videos would run more smoothly and improve the quality of the experience. The research also revealed that a good number of customers would happily pay a premium for a better-quality mobile broadband experience.

It’s all good stuff but it’s exactly what Acision was saying last year, so I asked Hendriks how many operators had asked for Acision’s help in this area, using the company’s policy management, deep packet inspection and content optimisation services. He told me operators were “very interested” and when I asked if it wasn’t a little frustrating that “very interested” was as far as it had got, he told me that it was ever thus with mobile operators and new technology. I feel like I’ve heard that line before, and I sometimes feel that anyone trying to sell anything to a big mobile network operator must have, and need, the patience of a saint.

What else will I remember from this year’s show? Hall 7, or App World as it’s now known, was buzzing; it is the place to be at Mobile World Congress. I’m not sure one hall will be enough to accommodate it this time next year.

And I can’t finish this piece with a word about the parties. Sure, we turn up for the free beer and nibbles, but they are also the place where a lot of people who go out to Barcelona have their best conversations. Most are in the evening, but yesterday I broke with tradition and spent a couple of hours off site at a lunch with Mobile Interactive Group. The food was great, the wine lovely, but I can honestly say I learned more in that two hours than in the previous three days. Peter Kay was wrong about garlic bread: networking is the future.

Finally, I just need to say a massive thank you to Martin Conway, who has done a great job helping us to cover the show this year, in spite of all the gremlins the site could throw at him: why is it things only ever go wrong when you’re out of the office?
So Farewell, MWC 2011, and much as I dread the thought of the next one, as I always do after four days eating tapas, drinking beer and not sleeping very much, bring it on…

David Murphy