HIGHLIGHTS AND TRENDS FROM MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS

iradubinsky

Guest blog post from Ira Dubinsky, independent marketing strategist, technophile, and MBA Candidate at London Business School.

These days it seems everyone is talking about ‘going mobile.’ But sometimes it’s unclear exactly what that means or why it’s so important. Consider this: close to 50% of all consumers in the UK now own a smartphone and the stats in North America are slightly higher. But it’s not just the number of people using smartphones, it’s how people are using them. People are spending more time using their smartphones every day and the result is a huge number of opportunities for businesses and organisations to reach people in new ways.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) took Barcelona by storm over the weekend. Founded several years ago by the Global Association of Mobile Operators and Manufacturers (GSMA), MWC has grown to a massive event that welcomed more than 60,000 attendees this year. There were a number of interesting developments that signalled an even greater importance of the mobile sector.

1. Old school tech giants make their move
Intel – known the world over for creating the chips inside our computers – was out in full force. The world’s leading manufacturer of processors has seen the writing on the wall and is making a play for its chips to be the preferred choice in mobile devices. If you opened up your phone right now, you would likely see chips made by Qualcomm or Samsung but not Intel. With PC sales down, Intel knows its future growth must be hitched to mobile. Remember the “Intel Inside” marketing campaign that raised awareness about the powerful chips inside the computer you might buy from Dell or HP? Expect to see a similar campaign for smartphones and tablets.

2. Mobile advertising gets smarter
Mobile advertising is growing in importance every day but 2012 is the year it will really come into its own. For years, online advertising has been getting more and more sophisticated with complex algorithms used to auction space to advertisers based on the type of traffic viewing the ad. The opportunity to show you ads for the latest vacation package to Morocco or Barbour bag is being sold in real-time to the highest bidder. Soon that technology will come to mobile with the added benefit for the advertiser of knowing exactly where you are.

3. Privacy and regulation
If you get anxious thinking about the level of advertising appearing on your smartphone’s screen, rest assured that privacy was front and centre at MWC. There’s been much written about recent changes to Google’s privacy policy, which will allow it to collect reams of data on its users and enhance its targeted advertising offering. Google was both on the defensive and offensive over the last few days walking the fine line between sounding scary and innovative. For many, it comes down to a generational thing. Those that have grown up with technology are less inclined to be put off by their every online move being used to target ads, whereas the older generation find it disconcerting. Wherever you stand, the government is now involved and it remains to be seen if Google’s plans will stand up to EU legal scrutiny.

Beyond privacy, several major players in the mobile space also took shots at EU governments for burying them in regulation that they claim stifles innovation and holds back growth. Both Vodafone and Google called for more lax regulations on pricing but it’s hard to see how many consumers will be sympathetic.

4. Hardware
When it comes to hardware, the big trend was “superpower.” There were phones with processors faster than a PC, phones with built in projectors, phones you can submerge in water, and giant phones with up to 5” screens.

Whether you work in communications, marketing or technology, it’s clear that mobile will be a dominant force in the coming years, with seemingly endless opportunities.

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