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Mobile World Congress: Did the mainstream media notice?

I snapped this on 25th February 2014 with an iPhone 5S

I resolved this year to make sure I wrote something – anything – about Mobile World Congress, the huge mobile industry trade show taking place in Barcelona this week.

I used to attend, nigh on religiously.

It used to be a huge highlight on the mobile industry calendar.

To be fair, it really is still a massive highlight for the industry.

But, it used to have far-reaching consequences.

It used to matter, widely.

It used to be incredibly important.

Then Apple happened.

You see, it’s still incredibly important for the mobile industry. This is undeniable. However, the market itself moved dramatically across 2007, 2008 and 2009.

You only have to search “MWC” here on this blog and you’ll see the articles and coverage I/we used to deliver across February and March.

It’s fair to say that markets really did move at MWC back-in-the-day.

My ready-reckoner was mainstream media.

How often would you see mentions in the mainstream media across MWC week (and the weekend leading up to MWC)? That was a barometer for me.

Of course, the mainstream media would never write about a new mobile roaming reconcillation product or something like that.

But routinely they’d run stories about Nokia, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Huawei, Motorola, Palm. I remember being in the room – literally in the room – for many critical market-moving announcements at Mobile World Congress.

“Nokia does this” or “Moto does that” were actually headlines of interest to the rest of the world.

There was huge demand for news and insight on handset and the surrounding ecosystem – anything that specifically mattered to the mainstream media. And therefore the rest of the world.

I remember the pendulum beginning to swing with the iPhone announcement(s) and then Google’s Android. We watched as the mainstream market began to separate from MWC.

Apple resolutely refused to engage. Why did they need to? Yes, Apple employees would certainly attend the event, but never ‘in public’.

Samsung’s Unpacked events are now highlights of their own – just like the events of many others.

There’s still a lot moving in the mobile industry: It’s absolutely telling, though, how things have changed.

Back when I was attending MWC, I remember the awesome might and influence that the mobile operators wielded. They used to be king-makers.

“The average person will only need 5-6 apps on their phone,” was the prediction of many a mobile operator and device manufacturer.

Now the operators are dumb pipes.

They had their chance.

They literally did have their chance.

I was right there watching and commentating whilst they collectively dug their own holes, surrendering billions upon billions of value to the ‘over the top’ new world.

Still today, many executives can’t see anything beyond selling minutes, text messages and gigabyte subscriptions.

That’s ok though. They’re still hugely valuable as a means of connectivity – and offer hugely critical services. But commodities. They deserve to get their billionth-of-a-percent premium for running such important infrastructure.

The market has moved on, dramatically.

I find it slightly hilarious reading some of the nonsense announcements. Many of these operators still think they have relevance.

Some, mind you, do. A rare few have managed to step outside the norm and drive stimulating, exciting, compelling ecosystems. Exceptions, though.

For those of you in Brilliant Barcelona, I trust you are having a great time.

I am also happy to stand corrected if you’ve seen any headlines in the mainstream media about MWC!



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