A debate is raging today about what exactly can be described as a mobile device. Is it any mobile phones, smartphones, or tablet computers? Do laptops qualify anymore? And how about simple storage devices that wirelessly connect to the Web for data storage, music, on-the-go TVs, or the wide range of multimedia products that are gaining wide acceptance in automobiles?
What other mobile form factors are heading our way, and how will the industry classify them once these hit the shelves? These questions matter to the industry supply chain because they will decide what components suppliers manufacture, what structures they put in place to support them, and how they market such products.
This is one of several key discussions taking place here in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress. But right now, the industry, though fascinated with the future, is more concerned about basic supply-and-demand issues, such as which components are hot and how to ensure production plants are properly cranked up to meet raging demand.
At the conference, all theoretical discussions end nervously when you bring up the topic of display screens, and specifically, the supply of them. Touch screen technology has caught on so fast, the people who control the glass may be in a position to influence the rest of the supply line. No glass, no tablet. No tablet, no chip sales. And that's making everyone in Barcelona very, very nervous. (See: MWC: Will There Be Enough Displays for All These Tablets?)
Here's a closer look: