It was inspiring to view the world’s most innovative mobile technology on display amid the timeless Old World architecture of Barcelona. Seeing someone snap a photo of the Palau Nacional with an iPhone, then post it on Twitter or Facebook in a span of mere seconds, is a spectacle that makes one realize just how far mobile technology has come within the past several years.
“New World” Mobile
Mobile carriers started Mobile World Congress (MWC) back in 1987 when mobile phones resembled bricks and only made phone calls. Today, these carriers are only a drop in the bucket compared to the vast amounts of tech companies that line the convention room halls. This year’s MWC – the largest conference of its kind – had over 600,000 attendees and exhibitors ranging from corporate giants like AT&T and Samsung to the smallest app development shops.
Ironically, recent conferences have seen the emergence of companies chipping away at the profits of the very carriers that once started it. Companies like Pinger and WhatsApp have disrupted the once lucrative SMS industry with free messaging services. Social networking apps are reducing the amount of time people spend talking on the phone. And when we do make calls, MWC is filled with every flavor of VoIP companies who further cut into the carriers’ revenues. By giving birth to “old world” mobile, the carriers unknowingly also gave way to a brave “new world” of mobile.
Mobile Has Become a Non-Negotiable
Walking upon the 500-year-old stone-cobbled walkways from one booth to the next, one can’t help but feel that we are at an incredibly significant, albeit fleeting point in history. Companies like Microsoft, Facebook, VISA, and Ford Motor Company all gather in Barcelona because they share the common thread of mobile, despite coming from drastically different industries. Mobile has become something much more important than a differentiator; it has become a non-negotiable. Every company, regardless of their field, must embrace consumer and enterprise mobility to remain competitive.
This, however, is the very reason that colossal internet or computer conventions like COMDEX no longer exist: the technology became ubiquitous to the point that the conferences were no longer relevant. Every major company either integrated these technologies or ceased being a major presence. We are now seeing this same trend with mobile, as every industry from automotives to healthcare integrate mobility as a key initiative.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
One of the best ways to appreciate how the “new world” of mobile has become a paradigm equally significant to the computer or the web is to breathe in the diversity of the companies present at MWC; the level of fragmentation is truly astonishing. It would easily be possible to break the conference up into entertainment mobility, POS mobility, supply chain mobility, and dozens of other similar categories.
The larger realization is that in only a few years, the “Mobile” in MWC will feel redundant. This is a testament to the infrastructure and innovation that the mobile carriers originally debuted, as mobile technology will soon touch every facet of our lives.