MWC Hits Six Figures

By Tom Allen
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The organisers of Mobile World Congress, MWC, said that it saw 101,000 attendees this year, the first time the number has got into six digits and 6% up on 2015. Visitors were from 204 countries.

On the Sunday before the event, there were a number of big product launches from LG and Samsung as well as multi-vendor press events run by Showstoppers and Pepcom. We were there early to report on those events.

Barcelona is a great place for an event and there was a new L9 metro line that ran directly to the fairground. However, there were bus and metro strikes (although not complete) that caused only a limited amount of disruption.

In summary, the event has become “about the details”. As our Managing Editor pointed out in his keynote at the Latin Display conference in 2014, the development of wearables meant that there are appropriate smart devices for every size of direct view display, now, from 1″ to as big as you like. There are no longer any genuine gaps in the market to fill. From here, the interest will be more in performance and comparative technology.

VR was a popular topic with delegates with queues for tests and demonstrations. Samsung clearly sees VR as a really important driver for the future, as you will see from our report on its press conference. LG’s solution looks much less well developed and we still think that there is a lot of work to be done to develop content and a ‘grammar’ of VR. At the moment, the VR demos look to me a bit like the 3D TV demonstrations of a few years ago.

One area that we have seen some activity over the last couple of years at MWC is in using a smartphone as the ‘brain’ in a desktop PC system based around a monitor. The USB Type C connector is a key part of enabling this concept (although it was finalised just a little too late for the development cycle of the Samsung S7, which stays with just a micro-USB connector). If you have a Windows phone, Continuum, built into Windows 10, is a simple way to support this and seems to work well.

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HP was demonstrating a new phone, due in the summer, that was using this function. It also had a ‘clamshell add-on’ that looks like a notebook, but has only a keyboard, battery and display and connects to the phone to turn it into a notebook-like device. We have seen this concept before from Korea Telecom (too expensive), Acer (not launched) and last year from Andromium. If you want to run Android in desktop applications, you need some extra features. Last year, start up, Andromium, was trying to make it work, but wasn’t present this year. At MWC, Remix OS impressed a number of people (but we only heard about it just as we were leaving for the airport) and can boot Android on a PC from a USB without needing any installation. We’ll be watching this development.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our report!

The 2017 Mobile World Congress will be held 27 February – 2 March 2017 at Fira Gran Via.

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