I usually expect that the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) will raise some interesting points, but this year before the event even started the industry had been shaken up. ‘Is there anything left for the Mobile World Congress 2011?’ asked Trusted Reviews, answering its own question with an excellent review of all the products due to be announced as well as some comments on the development of so called ‘super phones’ and ‘tablets’ that take capabilities up to another new level.
But the obvious talking point before, and indeed during, the show was the Microsoft and Nokia partnership to develop a new generation of smartphones where the noise of Nokia fans, or Android cheerleaders, crying, or angrily stating it’s a suicide move between two losers in the market seems to be drowning out the more thoughtful comment. Few of them seem to have actually read the official announcement which lays out quite clearly that Nokia continues to own the mass market in straightforward phones, the so called ‘next million’ units. Nokia is partnering with Microsoft to attack the highly competitive smartphone market where Apple’s iPhone changed the game and Google Android is now changing it yet again.
But this is not just a hardware story, it’s an app story too, as the two partners merge their ‘best bits’ from Bing Search to Nokia Maps, and if there is one lesson that Apple taught the market (and learnt from Microsoft) is that it’s all about apps. Merging the two developer ecosystems, and developers, is a key strategy to really take on Apple and Google. The interesting and often controversial blogger Scoble (remember he is ex Microsoft btw) writes one of the few posts that used the real facts to point out potential advantages even if it courts controversy with the title ‘Dear Nokia fans; you’re nuts’. By contrast for an equally factual consideration which sees possible risks the unusual Armed and Dangerous blog commented under the title of ‘the smart phone wars; Nokia’s suicide note’
All these pieces are interesting as they are about two major players, who have a lot of money and market assets between them meaning there surely must be a resulting impact on … well Apple iPhone and Android of course. I don’t think it’s that simple. I was amazed how all of this overshadowed the entry of the powerful HP brand into both tablets and smartphones based on its own proprietary operating system WebOS, a Linux derived operating system with some unique over-air synchronisation capabilities from its acquisition of the once ubiquitous Palm. These new HP smartphones and tablets start with full shared synchronisation and HP say that WebOS will be extended to some of their PC range too.
The official HP Palm blog states the WebOS will be a key part of your ‘entire mobile experience’, and that brings me to the point of this post. Pretty well everyone now owns multiple devices; smartphone and PC for sure, but increasingly likely either personally or within the family will be a console and a tablet, may be even a Web TV in the next few years. Will we really continue to select each device individually for its features? Surely not! Increasing use of multiple devices, (and for multiple roles; business and personal), brings the understanding that we need a unified personal environment, something that industry statistics already show. Apple iPhone users readily decided to become Apple PC users resurrecting their previously almost moribund PC business. HP must be looking at leveraging their huge PC market share into smartphones and tablets using WebOS to provide a unified Personal Mobility Ecosystem. Google clearly hopes to achieve the same thing with various hardware manufacturers providing an Android-based environment.
And that brings us back to Microsoft needing to get leverage in the smartphone market and Nokia needing to get into PCs and tablets. Maybe put that way the deal looks more logical and we should be looking at the Mobile World Congress becoming the show for Personal Mobility Ecosystems?