I spent the last few days at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona. It was the first 3GSM for me, very informative, met lots of interesting people, had lots of great conversations. Here are some of the highlights and takeaways from my perspective:
- I thought Rudy and company did a fantastic job with the Mobile Monday Global Peer Awards. I heard about a bunch of new companies I hadn’t ever seen before (check out the list of finalists for some interesting pointers), it was a great chance to connect with a bunch of folks I hadn’t seen in a while, and I was proud to see that the local team (Mobile Complete) fared so well in the placings.
- There was more Linux presence than I expected there to be. Of course I knew Trolltech was going to be there with the Greenphone. But Access also had a tremendous booth and signs up all over the place about their mobile Linux stuff. The Motorola and Samsung booths also had Linux featured pretty prominently. It’s interesting to see the different usages of Linux as a base, varying from completely open like Trolltech to completely hidden like Motorola and Samsung.
- I got a chance to play around with the E90 Communicator in the Nokia booth. Like all the communicator series it’s a brick of course, but this time the brick runs a whole boatload more software than the previous versions cause it’s S60 based. The old communicators had a really very small screen on the front and the large screen inside. The outside display on the E90 is the same resolution on something like a 6680, so you can use it closed for real applications. And the inside screen is nearly laptop resolution. Will they manage to start shipping it before my interest in the platform dies completely? Only time will tell. I’m just going to assume this time that push email won’t work, so that I don’t get disappointed.
- While helping out at the AdMob booth I was forced to realize that the mobile world won’t end up changing the online world like I had assumed it would. It really looks like the innovation is going to flow the other way around. People who are already working in mobile have had all semblance of initiative and innovation beaten out of them. You can lay a new business model down in front of them and explain in detail how it works, and generally they aren’t able to grasp it unless it looks enough like something they already know. However, people coming from the online world and looking to expand into mobile generally are accustomed to a shifting environment and taking in new opportunities and integrating them into their mental framework. It’s really wrong on a number of levels. The number of handsets out in the market dwarfs the number of PCs, the experience on those handsets are different, the context of the user is different, the networks inbetween offer different capabilities, and asynchronous messaging means something completely different. The stage should be set for mobile to completely subsume the online world. But instead it’s the people from the online world staggering out into the sun and realizing there’s no one trying to grab the potential of the new medium and just picking up the pieces waiting for them. Just means we’ll have to wait a while as the online folks start to really understand “this whole mobile thing” in order for the real applications to start coming around.
- I got to meet Luca and Andrea of WURFL fame and have some good conversations, caught up with Dan Appelquist to jaw some about the future Mobile 2.0 events, and had some great conversations with the dotMobi folks about their developer initiatives. The dotMobi folks have been talking about growing the overall mobile ecosystem, which is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been trying to help do with Mobile Monday in Silicon Vally, the Mobile 2.0 conference, and overall at AdMob. And Dan pointed me at the Betavine project going on at Vodafone with the same goals. With so many of us pointed in the same direction hopefully we’ll be able to make some progress on that goal.
- In general the European operators do seem to be more progressive than the US carriers. Most of Europe is still clinging to the per-KB based charge structure for data, which really stifles the mobile web quite a bit, so I tend to lump them all into the same conservative grouping. But they do seem to smell the winds of change and they’re interested in trying to stay ahead of the game. I kept getting the question about what’s the best way to increase mobile web usage, to which I always answer flat rate data plans. Everyone still wrinkles their nose and generally doesn’t want mobile web to expand badly enough to give up data tariffs. I heard a lot of activity around 3GSM from groups that do stuff like “consumer advocacy”, generally complaining about the hidden data costs associated with services like music download and the general opaqueness of the pricing plans. It just seems such an unlivable situation I’m not sure how it’s gone on this long, so I won’t say it’ll stop soon. But the forces do seem to be aligning against the oppression of data services through pricing discrimination.
I have a few pictures I took to show to folks back at the office, but there’s nothing interesting in there like juicy unreleased product photos. It was a great event, very happy I had a chance to attend and check it out in person.