BARCELONA:Internet, computer and music giants are expected to flock to the 3GSM World Congress 2007 in the Spanish city of Barcelona in an attempt to court the mighty mobile phone industry.
The annual convention, starting 12 February, has in recent years become not only an absolute must for telecommunications operators and equipment makers, but increasingly also for non-telecom companies like Yahoo, MTV and Warner Music, eager to get in on the action.
The wireless industry meets in Barcelona this week with a bevy of flashy new cell phones, faster networks and more entertainment geared for the small screen taking centre stage at the 3GSM World Congress.
The four-day event, which starts on 12 February, is expected to draw more than 50,000 industry officials from major cell phone makers like Finland’s Nokia Corp. and US company Motorola Inc. as well as Samsung and LG from South Korea.
The event is also expected to see the official debut by Microsoft Corp. on 12 February of its next step in mobile computing, Windows Mobile 6, which has been talked about in the industry by its code name, “Crossbow.”
The operating system, which is used on smart phones, the handheld gadgets that marry the functionalities of personal digital assistants with full-featured cell phones, is expected to sport a Vista-like design and connect more completely with PCs that are running the new OS, particularly in e-mail accessibility and speed, along with easier editing of Office documents, a frequent target of criticism from previous Mobile Windows efforts.
Other companies plan to introduce new models of phones from devices that are set to be on the market within weeks to the dream designs that are still in the planning stage.
Looming over 3GSM like a cloud, albeit perhaps one with a silver lining, will be Apple Inc.’s already announced iPhone.
On Friday, in Seoul, Samsung Electronics Co. showed off its Ultra Smart F700, which is expected to take centre stage at its presence in Barcelona.
Mobile phone makers have been scrambling to match the iPhone, unveiled last month by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The device, which will be available starting in June, marks the iPod and Macintosh computer maker’s entry into the mobile phone business.
The ultra-thin iPhone is controlled by touching a large touch screen, plays music, surfs the Internet, and runs a version of the Mac OS X operating system, among other functions.
Last month, Samsung rival LG Electronics Co. announced its own touch-screen mobile phone, the KE850 Prada.
The LG phone, produced in partnership with the Italian fashion brand, will go on sale in late February for US$780 at mobile phone dealers and Prada stores in Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
But phones are just one element of the event, said John Strand, of Copenhagen, Denmark-based Strand Consulting.
“One could call it the world’s largest trade related ’networking party’ with the sole purpose of stimulating the mobile development that has over the past years changed billions of people’s daily lives,” he said.
Last year’s event focused greatly on VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, the technology used by Skype and others to trade phone calls using not wireless or landlines, but the Internet.
This year, though, the issue of bringing more content-- music, movies and television -- to tiny screens is expected to be the biggest draw.
“The biggest Hype this year will probably be mobile-TV, IMS (instant messaging services), mobile VoIP, as well as user generated content,” Strand said.
Much of the content will come from familiar brands, such as The Cartoon Network, as well as new initiatives to bring the wildly popular feel of “Bollywood” films to the super-small screen.
News broadcaster CNN International said it plans to do its first global TV broad from a mobile phone from the conference.
The “live via phone” piece will be broadcast by correspondent Jim Boulden for the daily news show, “Business International,” the company said of the 90-second planned broadcast that airs Monday.
The conference is also a chance for the industry’s major technology suppliers _ Nokia-Siemens, Sweden’s LM Ericsson, France’s Alcatel/Lucent, Canada’s Nortel Networks Corp. and U.S. company Qualcomm Inc., among others _ to talk directly to their corporate customers about what is upcoming and, more importantly, what can implemented quickly.
Strand, however, said it would be more important to see what the newer, less established firms will offer up, at least in terms of the wireless industry’s infrastructure needs. “The mobile industry is developing in the same way as the pharmaceutical industry, which in one side is consolidating into a few large players, and it is not these big old players who are delivering the innovation anymore,” he said. “Innovation is something you purchase from smaller companies. We believe that the exiting news this year will come from the smaller and medium sized players, who only have their unique products to profile themselves on, against the big boy’s PR machines.”