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Mar 3

The Wonderful World of Mobile World Congress 2012

Well, you know what they say, sometimes shift happens. And hearing the panels and announcements made at the Mobile World Congress, a lot of shift has happened already.
 
Sure you had the customary launch of the next iPhone- iPad-killer and it’s true that the Beam is a beautiful thing but, come on guys, aren’t we all waiting for when the iPad3 will be out! I believe device fatigue has become systemic: obsolescence is organized around ever shortening life cycles, the next big thing is weeks away if not tomorrow! It is like the industry had decided collectively to Osborne itself. Also, the 2012 MWC showed time again that device manufacturers have yet to solve the problem of platform fragmentation. They seem to actually refuse to do so, still ardent believers in the silo sales model and terribly afraid of losing their fast eroding differentiation power.
 
The big lesson, if you ask me, delivered by the 2012 MWC is that hardware isn’t ruling the game anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very very important to have super-tech gizmos we can drop on our toes and I cannot wait to bother the team with wall-to-wall corporate PowerPoints springing from my phone, how cool would that be!
 
It is important, and yet, Apps rule. A lot of power is now in the hands of little guys like us who provide services previously cordoned off by operators and hardware manufacturers. It is striking to see how in a couple of years, we moved from a telecommunication universe where everything revolved around device manufacturers and telecom operators to a mobile centric world where the App providers have become the pied piper of the corporate pack. Yep, you could see clearly this during the panels of 2012 MWC and nobody’s talking about going back. The app exeprience matters more than the device itself: I want to play Angry Birds the same way on all my devices, don’t force me to pick just one device for playing Angry Birds!
 
Then, there is the Facebook announcement. Facebook is certainly powerful enough to project a reality distortion field that is so strong, it makes its partnership proposal with telecom operators relevant. Yet, we reckon the jury will be out for a while on this one and that the Facebook move in mobile is a defensive one.
 
As far as we can tell, Facebook has not – yet - found a business model on mobile, not – yet – decided on a Facebook phone. Take for example how things may go with Zynga and how threatening that may be for Facebook. As Zynga’s mobile business catches up, potentially becoming dominant, less and less of its game dollars will flow through Facebook meaning significant lost revenues for the social network.
 
What do you do when you have not found a way of entering the communication ring by yourself, like Apple did in the brave old days? Well, you partner with the operators until you can either bypass them or grind them down. Here is what I believe Facebook has really said during the 2012 MWC: “we don’t know yet how to crack mobile but until we do, we will work with the grey haired guys as a second best”.
 
On a different note, the 2012 MWC was also interesting for what was said on platforms. Android is going stronger by the day. Alternatives face an uphill battle (one may say a vertical battle) to reach critical mass. Nobody believes anymore in RCS, the OTT (Over the Top) app framework, since Apple jinxed it in style. Similarly, Joyn is a desperate move by operators probably leading nowhere fast as the world does not need another platform and one can count on Google not to facilitate unification outside Android.
 
It’s a wonderful world, I told you so.

Christophe BACH
Founder