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A week @ Mobile World Congress 2012

Another year, another Mobile World Congress closing its gates.

For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of attending this once-a-year mobile industry meet-up, you should know that it is so huge that the best way of really hearing what’s going on is to follow it online.  No point in walking miles to hit all the stands.

The point of being here is that you get to catch up with the rest of the industry around the Fira, at fringe events and at the parties around town (Helen Keagan’s Swedish Beers above all). So what were people talking about?

Mobile payments struck a chord.  Facebook’s announcement that they want to solve the mobile payments problem was the main highlight: app stores will continue to have the upper hand when it comes to micropayments until there are alternatives that are global and just as seamless.

Paypal joined in,with their own declaration of intent. They also added a data point: they are expecting $7bn worth of mobile payments in 2012.

While the big guns try and solve a problem that should have been sorted ages ago, the mobile industry is already setting the next challenge: NFC payments. Visa announced their partnership with Samsung for the Olympics and with Vodafone for the Vodafone Mobile Wallet.  It feels like it is just the beginning – surely device fragmentation will step in and hold back full rollout for a few years.

I may have been talking to the wrong people, but the Html5 vs. Native debate seems to have become more rational.  Facebook, again, brought it into light by announcing their involvement in Html standards evolution – effectively recognition of the fact that Html5 is still short of the build-once-deploy-everywhere promise – something we have talked about a lot.  It is still the future though, and the Telefonica+Mozilla partnership shows that powerful players are behind it.

I didn’t really look at many devices. Every year needs a tech first, and I would give that to the Galaxy Beam – mobiles with projectors have been promised for years and it’s good to see someone mad enough to make it happen. On the downside, I didn’t hear many positive comments about the award-winning Nokia 808 PureView – is a 41MP camera more likely to beat the iPhone than a projector beam?

The one theme that stood out when looking at devices was the idea of cross-media / cross-platformexperiences. Sony were showing off multiplayer gaming with console vs. smartphone, Microsoft showed a preview of Windows 8 seamlessly working across devices and there was a lot of talk about 2nd-screen experiences. Designing and executing these kind of experiences is probably the most exciting challenge in our industry.

Last but not least – the OS war. Apple were not here, as usual. Still odd, given that they currently define where the mobile industry is at, in terms of audience and revenue. They at least organized a party and were (possibly) bothered enough to time their iPad3 pre-announcement with Eric Schmidt’s keynote. Android was everywhere – again, no surprise there. I think that Nokia & Microsoft did well out of it: they have a good product, Skype is now on WP7 (beta), they get some sympathy for the mountain they have to climb, and Windows 8 impressed everyone.

by Sergio Falletti