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2012 Mobile World Congress Takes Off

It's that time of year again. The Mobile World Congress is off and running in Barcelona, Spain, and tens of thousands of global mobile executives are talking up their phones, tablets, and other hyper-connected technology.

Of course, everyone wants to get their news out early when attendees are buzzing with excitement, and the press is chasing down rumors. Here's a quick overview of some of the news.

EE Times, an EBN sister publication, reported Sunday on HTC talking up its One Series of smartphones. One device features a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and another uses Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon S4. {complink 2430|Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.} showed off what it calls the world’s fastest handsets and tablets. Huawei said the devices use a new quad-core applications processor designed by its chip division.

{complink 3847|Nokia Corp.} executives took the stage bright and early Monday morning and surprised people with its new 808 PureView camera phone. The wow factor comes in the form of a 41-megapixel sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology. To put this in perspective, Apple's iPhone 4S uses an eight-megapixel sensor.

Even if it's being built on the Symbian platform (which Nokia said it would support until 2016) and is not immediately available on Windows, it's good to hear Nokia executives talking about something that, at least on the surface, sounds innovative. This is especially true when you consider how much Nokia has been floundering these last few years — something EBN has covered in-depth. (See: Nokia Cuts More, But Is It Enough?)

Additionally, Nokia unveiled the Lumia 610, which is aimed at a younger audience, and said its recently launched Lumia 900 will be available in markets beyond the US, including Canada and China. It also launched three Asha products (the 202, 203, and 302), expanding the reach and capabilities on its lower-end Series 40 feature phones.

The news wasn't limited to handset makers. Manufacturers now want everyone to believe the need for a fully connected mobile life touches every device in your personal space, including the grandaddy of them all: your car.

Ford Motor Co. used the mobile event to debut a car, and executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. delivered what conference organizers called his first keynote technology speech in Europe. He talked Monday evening about the “global gridlock” issue that comes with increased “urban mobility” and the possibility of having 4 billion cars on the road globally by the mid-century.

He called on the auto and mobile industries and governments to collaborate more closely on how vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-cloud communications can be standardized across different platforms and autos. The goal is to connect mountains of data to increase public safety, address traffic congestion, and give consumers more hands-free technology options while reducing distractions. Ford Motor has started taking several steps in that direction, he said.

“We have cut our product cycle times dramatically. In your world, we're still dinosaurs, but we've gone from lifecycles of five to seven years to two to three years. We're building in inflection points into our platforms, so we can improve them without having to build a new car,” the executive chairman said. “Before, technology was seen as an add-on and done by someone outside the company. Now technology is the differentiator and drives our business. Now there is a generation of executives in auto companies that get it. We need your help, and we're no longer going to keep you at arm's length and tell you, 'Come back in a few years.'”

Wondering what else will happen here? I'll have another on-the-ground update this week.

24 comments on “2012 Mobile World Congress Takes Off

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 28, 2012

    Ford's point about using connectivity to help gridlock is the best possible use of mobile technology. Getting lost was the main reason behind GPS and people that are lost drive slower and snarl traffic up. By the time you hit a traffic jam, it's usually too late to do anything about it. If you know your fellow commuters, and anyone that works in an office probably does, tweeting about a traffic jam is a great way to help out a colleague. The tweets would have to be voice-recognition driven, but I can see how that would work. Status updates about being stuck in traffice is another tool. Again, these would have to have an interface that doesn't require reading while driving.

    If a tweet isn't text, though, is it still a tweet?

  2. Jennifer Baljko
    February 28, 2012

    Hi Barbara,

    Ford's speech was pretty good, all things considered (end of the day keynote, but on day 1 when everyone is excited about the possibility of a hyper-connected world). And, yeah, I liked his idea of having vehicles talk directly to the highway system to get traffic flowing better. Admittedly, though, I did simultaneously also visualize a bad movie scene where Stephen King's Christine meets a Bruce Willis-style crash'em-up thriller to cause global traffic chaos.

    And – good question what do we call a voice tweet? Maybe we should come up with something and trademark it so we can royalties when it becomes famous.=)

  3. bolaji ojo
    February 28, 2012

    Jenn, I couldn't but wonder if Ford said those things after reading the statement. Really? The automotive industry is now going to start listening to its high-tech suppliers and no longer insist on a 5-year design cycle? It's like they've become anachronistic in a light-speed economy. It's a good start but, by heck, they sure took their time getting here!

  4. Jennifer Baljko
    February 28, 2012

    Bolaji – Yeah, he said it during the Q&A, and FWIW, he sounded sincere. It sounds like car guys are finally realizing how important technology is going to be in saving their own industry. He even had interesting things to say about increased possibility for car-sharing business models, and how individual car ownership will significantly change in the near future.

    It was, what's the word, refreshing, even promising… but, yes, it took a long time.

  5. bolaji ojo
    February 28, 2012

    There's a solution to all these Barbara. We should just get self-driving cars and sit back, enjoy all the infotainments we can while being chauffered. Some of us might even read a book!

  6. bolaji ojo
    February 28, 2012

    Jenn, I tossed a comment at Barbara that I would like you to respond to. What happens when we finally get cars that drive themselves? The challenge of being conscious of vehicles next to you while being entertained by Will Smith in the next Independence Day movie or gorging on some delightful stories about Brangelina fades away.

    Ford should give me a car that can sense other vehicles, take my instructions on destination, where to stop for rest, whether to visit Aunt Jenny on the way or avoid uncle Frank's cabin.

    Ford should tell us about the next-gen vehicle that is really cutting edge and, for me, that would be one that allows me to enjoy reading the news on my tablet PC, take calls on my smartphone and watch a cool movie while the vehicle takes care of all these driving business!

  7. Daniel
    February 29, 2012

    Jennifer, what about Samsungs plans? Today I had read that they have plan for ARM Quad core 1.5 GHz processor with better features and functionalities. More details can be available from the following link.

    http://www.eetasia.com/ART_8800661859_499489_NT_2287737f.HTM

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 29, 2012

    I think we have those, except they are called trains…:-)

    I'm all for a self-driving car. I find the experience of driving unpleasant when you are constantly avoiding distracted drivers. Other times, it can be a pleasure to get out of the house and away from all my electronics devices.

    The problem with the self-driving car is one of control. I know people who simply can't give up the idea of the flexibility of using a car versus mass transit. And I'm not sure how the self-driving car doesn't end up looking like mass transit. Any ideas?

     

  9. ITempire
    February 29, 2012

    @ Barb

    I think its very difficult to fully automate the driving experience. Even if you are'nt driving, others are. And because everyone driving the car is not sensible or undistractable, your automated-driving-car might not be agile enough to avoid collusions through sensors. However, manual driver can avoid it.

    As far the infotainment experience Bolaji mentions, its likely to grow as years pass by but automation to such an extent as we dream, that may not turn out to be a reality unless everyone on the road is doing the same i.e. watching Independance Day, and letting the driving part to technology.    

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 29, 2012

    It does sound a little too robotic, doesn't it? I'm envisioning  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”… creepy.

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 29, 2012

    Jenn: I think “squawk” is the best term, but may already be taken. As to Movies Not to Drive By, “Christine” has to be at the top of list, along with “Smokey and the Bear” and “Convoy.” And yes, somewhere in the 1970s, I actually watched those two movies. I'll swear it was under duress, though.

  12. Susan Fourtané
    February 29, 2012

    Jennifer, 

    Are you there? I was planning to go, finally I didn't make it. 🙁 

    -Susan 

  13. jbond
    February 29, 2012

    With some major companies already having announcements at the begining of the show, I am curious to see what the rest of the week brings and if there are any hidden surprises that companies are waiting to release.

  14. Taimoor Zubar
    February 29, 2012

    “the wow factor comes in the form of a 41-megapixel sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology”

    41 megapixel camera within a phone is certainly a very advanced feature. I wonder if there's enough utility of this feature. Would people want smartphones that have such a good camera resolution? Would getting a phone with 41 mp camera be as good as having an SLR camera?

  15. Anna Young
    February 29, 2012

    I just watched an update posted on You Tube about how some folks protesting at the exhibition shut down some areas of the MWC. Interesting stuff. You should check it out on EE Times.

    {youtube|/v/9no4wBvuphQ?version=3&hl=en_US|315|560}

  16. Jennifer Baljko
    March 1, 2012

    Hi Susan,

    Yes, I'm on the  ground here, listening to a session about embedded consumer electronics. Too bad you couldn't make it…. sheer mobile craziness. =)

  17. Jennifer Baljko
    March 1, 2012

    Yes, lots going on with all the device makers. Samsung won an award, too.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/307212/20120301/samsung-galaxy-s-ii-ipad-2-mwc.htm

  18. Susan Fourtané
    March 2, 2012

    Hi, Anna 

    Those tablets look pretty nice, and at a very good price. Are you at the MWC, too? 

    -Susan 

  19. Susan Fourtané
    March 2, 2012

    Hi, Jennifer  

    Gee, how exciting! We could have gone for some tapas afterwards. 😀 

    The MWC Website, and the updates is all I can have this time. Some Finnish companies have presented new products there. At least I am going to follow this part closely from here. 🙂 

    -Susan 

  20. Jennifer Baljko
    March 2, 2012

     

    Hi Anna,

    Yes, university students on Wed. demonstrated near downtown Barcelona, protesting significant cuts in education. Later in the day, about 4 p.m., a splinter part of the protest ended up near the MWC (a kilometer or two from city center), and riot police lined up outside; some access points to the conference were closed. I went to see what was happening at the protest, and talked to a bunch of students; I guesstimated that there was about 200 people outside the MWC site (an estmated 25,000 people showed up for the earlier protest downtown). Personally, seeing what's going on every day, I don't  think the protest outside MWC was so big or such a threat that police and organizers responded they way they did, but I suppose they were being cautious, and being cautious is better than not be cautious, in the grander scheme of things. Also, based on incidents that happened earlier in the day (including burning a car) perhaps police and organizers believed this protest could have escalated, and took the measures they did to secure the MWC site. As far as I can tell, there were no outbreaks at the MWC protest; just a bunch of kids sitting in a busy roundabout cursing off the police, the government, the banks and capitalism. Also it's important to keep in mind by Wed. late afternoon, which is the third day of the four day event, many attendees are already making their way back to the airport; so I don't excatly how much disruption was caused. If the protest happened, say, Tues morning, there would have been a bigger impact.

    Obviously, too, police were commissioned to protect a big investment in the city. The MWC brings Barcelona and surrounding areas 300 million euros annually. That said, the student protest plays into much deeper problems in Spain; unemployement is at more than 20% (last I looked) and for young people under 30, the unemployment number goes up to 50%. Prior to the event, metro and bus workers also threatened to strike during the 4-day event (again because of signicant budget cuts), but in the hours/days before the congress, the strikes were canceled. I think that's because the GSMA — the organization that sponsors the MWC — said it would look at other cities to host future event if a transportation strike occured (i read  this, don't have direct confirmation; Barcelona is scheduled to be the host city for at least three or four more years); losing a conference of this magnitude — 67,000 powerhouse tech attendees translated to lots of hotel, restaurant and other business — would be a huge blow to the city, so they took measures to prevent anything from going awry. Whether it worked or not or the actions were justified by any one party depends on your point of view, I suppose.

     

  21. Jennifer Baljko
    March 2, 2012

    Hi jbond – Like CES in Vegas, most companies attending MWC make major announcements the Sunday before the event or Monday morning, and they jockey for all the press splash they can get. As the week goes on, there's so much noise, it's hard to follow everything.

  22. Jennifer Baljko
    March 2, 2012

    Hi Bolaji,

    During his speech, Bill Ford acknowledged that – how did he say, it — “the joy of driving” would never fully be lost, but it would have more of these Knight Rider features (my words, not his… seems appropriate to mention KITT in the context of the other shows we'r talking about). It would be more of this sensor-type stuff to sense road conditions, generate voice-automated alerts, feeding info up to the road infrastructure system and other things that would make your life easier while hands stay on the wheel. I think some of the vision could be compared to something like driverless trains and autopiloted planes where pilots handle the important tings like landing and taking off. We're already using so much technology to run large-scale, mass transportation systems, maybe now it's just starting to spill over to our “personal” moving pods.

    Here are the two cars Ford had on display at their booth. the EVOS and the B-Max; the B-Max was announced at the MWC.

    EVOS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol6i48kKzlI.

    {youtube|/v/uSgojdbCm6s?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0|315|560}

     

  23. Anna Young
    March 3, 2012

    Hi Susan, no I wasn't at the MWC. I followed up on Youtube.

  24. Susan Fourtané
    March 5, 2012

    Hi, Anna 

    Yep. It would have been nice to be there, though. Lots of news, and things going on there. 

    -Susan 

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