By Dr. Mehmet Unsoy (with contributions from Falk Mller-Veerse, Jan Vocke and Dhananjay V. Rohini)
Dallas, USA / Munich, Germany – February 24, 2010
Mobile OS war heats up: Intel and Nokia have decided to merge their respective OSs, Moblin and Maemo, to create MeeGo, an OS for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and dashboard car-computers. The Linux based OS will support both x86 and ARM; this would certainly give Intel increased mindshare in the mobile business. Smartphones have traditionally favoured ARM based chips and Intel seems to have finally woken up to the fact that smartphones will outnumber PCs in the near future. With its Atom processor line, Intel seeks to gain market share in the smartphone segment besides the netbook market. Recall Intel’s announcement earlier this year about its own app store: AppUp is targeted at apps for Atom based devices. Meanwhile the Symbian group gave away source code on USB sticks, underlining Nokia’s open source path! Curiously for Nokia, we did not hear of any device launches at this Congress and the company held most of its events outside of the official fair grounds.
Windows Mobile 7 makes its debut: Microsoft showcased its latest offering in the mobile OS space by unveiling the WM7. The general view is that Microsoft has to get it right this time finally – now or never! Windows Mobile’s market share has fallen rapidly, causing concern in Redmond. While the demo was largely UI based and little was revealed about the kernel, it did provide some insights. The UI is more modern with iPhone-like icons, and functionalities are grouped into ‘hubs’ by use-cases. In fact, the integration of its digital media player Zune and some Xbox functionality could give it traction in the consumer segment. For the enterprise, there is integration with SharePoint, Microsoft’s collaboration tool which is a smart move given the OS’ strong enterprise user base. Lots of handset manufacturers and operators have already signed up for it; but the first handset that supports WM7 will not be available until year end 2010.
Samsung goes enterprise and smart: The device platform market got a bit more crowded with the entry of Samsung’s new OS bada. Samsung formally announced its Wave device developed on the bada OS. Interestingly, bada means Ocean in Korean, and Samsung will be coming up with new waves! Although the company has been slow in hopping onto the rapidly growing smartphone market, one has to pay attention when the world’s second largest device maker finally joins in. This move is part of a comprehensive enterprise mobile strategy, wherein Samsung will offer enterprise email, instant messaging, security, mobile device management, unified communications, customer relationship management, salesforce automation and business intelligence in association with partners. We were able to play around with a Wave device and it seems that it can become an iPhone contestant if the price point is chosen below Apple’s.
There is so much concern about fragmentation, especially in the handset OS space but I take a contrarian view. It translates into more choice for developers, operators and customers. If there is going to be some consolidation in the OS space, let that happen through the natural process of elimination. Furthermore, there are great solutions in the market such as the one from Netherlands’ Service2Media which offer a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that allows developers to access all rich phone features from the app they are developing for all device environments. Similarly, companies such as Mobinex from Turkey, offer platforms and tools for fast publishing of mobile apps across different OS. Also, mobile publishing platforms such as those from Handmark, Netbiscuits and MoMac allow content providers to create rich mobile content that are engaging on all platforms. Finally, companies such as Mobile Distillery provide porting of apps on smartphones onto other platforms. Liquid Air Lab also has developed an application factory for launching cross-platform apps in general and in particular for several verticals. Thus so many solutions for the ‘problem of fragmentation’!
Smartphone management becomes big business: RIM announced the release of the free Blackberry Enterprise Server Express in Barcelona. The BES is considered the gold standard in the industry when it comes to email, PIM server and device management. Gone are the days of an enterprise supporting only one platform handpicked by IT. The iPhone has found its place in the enterprise and so will many Andorid-based phones. The multi-platform opportunity has been spotted by companies such as Good Technology (which acquired CloudSync), Sybase, Trust Digital (with their Enterprise Mobility Management – EMM platform), Germany’s ubitexx and even Google which now offers some bacis device management over the cloud (but curiously not yet for Android). With F-Secure also announcing security solutions for smartphones, we believe that the traditional security players will also enter this exploding market. Great solutions from the laptop world that can remotely wipe data from stolen laptops are already being provided for smartphones by players such as ubitexx. Even in the consumer segment, operators are being expected to offer customers services like mobile data sharing and back-up using solutions from vendors such as Maeglin from France.
What did Google do? Eric Schmidt’s eagerly awaited keynote provided some insights into Google’s mobile strategy. The new mantra, ‘Mobile First’ was something that one could have already deduced by observing Google’s entry into the mobile OS, device and advertising markets last year. But Mr. Schmidt’s focus on the cloud and its significance for the industry clearly signal where the priority lies. The computing power of smartphones with ubiquitous connectivity would make the cloud even more potent. Google also gave a boost to Adobe’s Flash by announcing support for it on the Android platform.
Also important was the demonstration of Google’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology coupled with Google Translate. A user can take a picture of a menu in German and see it displayed in English instantly. Although this is not cutting-edge technology in itself, it has a compelling use case and also indicates Google’s attempt to enter the cross media marketing segment. Recall Google’s shipment of QR codes to 100,000 local businesses in the U.S. to push Google Local Business last year.
Mobile messaging: What is next for mobile messaging? One hot area during this Congress was RCS (Rich Communication Suite) that has been promoted by GSMA, with 40+ companies starting to offer new real-time multimedia messaging services. Ericsson was demonstrating with Telefnica during this Congress, while Colibria from Norway was pushing their RCS and social networking solutions at their booth. Another interesting mobile messaging product is Voice SMS which fills a gap in the developed markets, but more importantly, it is critical for mobile messaging in emerging markets. Companies such as Kirusa are offering innovative solutions around Voice SMS, Voice IM and Call-n-Tweet as Value Added Services (VAS). Further, Cologne based Communology unveiled its instant messaging and visual voicemail offering for Android that enables carriers to offer rich messaging environments for this fast growing platform.
2D / QR barcodes, digital watermarks and cross media interactivity: On the heels of 2D barcode solutions vendor Scanbuy received funding from Motorola’s venture arm earlier this month, Neustar teamed up with Visa for promoting 2D codes at this Congress. The market for 2D code readers is currently very fragmented and there exist the different formats such as QR, Datamatrix etc. Microsoft also recently launched its own colour 2D codes with readers for all phone platforms including Blackberry and Android. It’s a sign of things to come. The west will finally catch up with pioneering markets such as Japan. In fact, commercial deployment in our host country Spain has been pioneered by Madrid based aquaMobile with leading brands and publishers looking to engage buyers and readers with barcodes and scannable digital watermarks. Watermarks do not occupy valuable inventory and can be embedded into images making them a more visually appealing than barcodes. Interestingly, they count Anta Banderas, a winery co-owned by Antonio Banderas as customer. Talk about Hollywood approved technology! Spain does seem to be taking a lead on proximity marketing with Barcelona’s Futurlink showcasing refreshing ideas to interact with users through Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, Digital Signage etc.
Location Based Services (LBS): This is a big theme for the coming years. The success of foursquare’s location based social network has attracted much attention across the world and did so at the Congress as well. A range of innovative ideas were seen this year. Navteq showed demos of urban 3D maps with pedestrian navigation. Sygic, on the other hand, makes software that turns any smartphone such as the iPhone into a full pedestrian or in-car navigation device. Centrl from New York offers free apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones for location-based social networking. Aloqa from Munich offers a popular service that offers users suggestions based on their interests and current location. The boom in LBS has played out beneficially for vendors such as Genasys and Datatronics who are key enablers of creative LBS that typically require precise location determined by multiple data sources such as GPS, Cell ID, WiFi etc. Just about every part of the value chain is seeing action and these are certainly promising times for this segment.
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