Mobile computing keeps the giants up at night

First impressions from MWC in Barcelona

Robert Dow

The Mobile World Congress looks like a huge success in this year of crisis and uncertainty. It’s been just as difficult to maneuver around people weaving around as they walk because they’re texting or talking on the phone and not paying one lick of attention to where they’re going. Other folks were stopping dead and gawking at glitzy booths. This being Europe, there are crowds of men in dark suits. Apparently, the number of attendees are down a bit, but there is very definitely business being done and lots of it.

blockheadsMobile phone users are not the same and they don’t want the same products (photo: JPR, SpinVox display at MWC)

There have been quite a few significant announcements at the show but probably the biggest clusters of news swirls around the new Android phones, the growing number of MIDs and Netbooks and the disappearing lines between phones, smartphones, and notebooks. Microsoft and Intel don’t really like the way things are shaping up. They had kind of been hoping that the phone world would develop just like the PC did-into a monolithic platform that they could dominate. But, so far mobile users like, and even demand, choice. If they have an iPhone this year, that doesn’t mean they will buy an iPhone next year. Heck, shoppers might even give the new Palm Pre a try (and save Palm’s corporate booty in the process). Trying out new phones and platforms is half the fun.

So Microsoft announced a new store and a new operating system but after years of misunderstanding the mobile customer, Microsoft is really just another exhibitor at MWC. The company is fighting its competitors on equal terms in this arena. As for Intel, Intel is practically an underdog in the mobile market. The mobile platforms using ARM processors are getting more and more powerful and Intel is working its marketing machine to death to try and keep its low end products from cannibalizing its high end products. With all that going, on, it’s kind of hard to simultaneously trumpet its wins in the mobile market — although the company promises wins down the road. For instance, LG announced a MID phone based on Intel’s Moorestown platform.

Change is in the air and being different is a big advantage right now.