Opinion: the mobile industry as the GSMA Mobile World Congress gets started

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 06 February 2009

There's a confused mobile world out there, and its population is heading to Barcelona in a week, wondering if it has a future. Speculation is rife! - but stuff about Android vs Windows and other trivia is insignificant. What will matter is new sales (collapsing for all) and traffic.

The Facebook tech community is preparing to fly to Catalonia, by discussing "who will win? who will lose?" - and what stands out in their debate is simple: no agreement whatever.

NewsWireless has no sense of clear vision, perhaps; but we're prepared to say that whatever happens, it's "none of the above." For example, there are predictions on the Facebook group of "huge investments" - by whom? Who has capital? There are predictions about greater data traffic - maybe, but to whose benefit?

So here's the NewsWireless Old Possum Prediction Sheet:

  • Look for Korean manufacturers to melt down. Their economy makes the UK look healthy.
  • Data traffic will rise, sure. What operators can charge for data won't.
  • My prediction: Hutchison (or its real owners!) will pull out of Europe.
  • What T-Mobile will do, is hard to guess, but I can't see them investing a brass cent anywhere except the USA and Canada, and South America.
  • And WiMAX will retrench in 2009, becoming the niche market it always has been, as Intel re-visions. Oddly, that could be really good news for any equipment maker; realism rather than fantasy is a far better basis for business.
  • Android? Lots of headlines, trivial amounts of production, a few early apps. The big question there is: can Google keep its bottle? Will it really find $100m worth of application developer support, during the first recession the corporation has ever seen?
  • Windows Mobile dying? You are joking! Actually, WM or Winmo is probably Microsoft's best prospect for portable computing in the future. And that means, Microsoft's best hope for survival. (Also, it outsells iPhone by three to one...)
  • Vodafone: will emerge as the leading European operator. Lots of surprises, mostly due to shrewd investing, and the carelessness of Ofcom and Carter. Watch this space...
  • Retail: what on earth are we going to do with all those phone shops, when the chains close them down? Using them for homeless shelters is probably sensible...
  • Other predictions off Facebook included the death of Sony Ericsson. NewsWireless response: no, there will be changes, but the manufacturer is in good smartphone shape. The French-built el-cheapo models will go (have gone, actually) but otherwise, it's OK.

    Greg Vitarelli's prediction of a focus on power consumption: spot on. Location based services, Greg, are a good bet for the future, but in 2009? I don't think so. Too much requirement for a healthy advertising industry, franky!

    But one area where location may make money for someone, may be the one highlighted by Alex Myers:

    "Mobile social networks such as Wadja will make a dent on web-based alternatives and poor efforts at mobile apps (such as Facebooks), especially in emerging markets where mobile is a primary source for web content."

    I agree: Facebook phones will start with the new 3UK launch, and provide a genuine market. But non-Facebook apps may well prove easier to use on the ten-key handsets.

    Listen to Steve Kennedy:

    "Near Field Comms will also be integrated into phones (like RFID), they'll have micropayment capability, but it will also mean a phone can be identified. At the moment Bluetooth only identifies the Bluetooth MAC, but RFID can associate a person. Privacy options will be scary, combining cell location and near field, people can be tracked very closely."

    New business opportunities there, for sure. In 2009? Not so sure.

    Anything you'd like to add?

    Join the facebook club, if you like! - alternatively, send mail to gkewney at yahoo dot com and we'll publish the pick of the inspired guesses!

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