BARCELONA—It’s been a busy week here at Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the event is winding down. Here are a few bits and bites from the week’s sights and sounds.
• Don’t call it the Facebook phone. I finally had a chance to swing by HTC’s booth to check out “the Facebook phone” and was immediately told by a member of the booth staff that it is not “the Facebook phone” or really “a Facebook phone.” So don’t call it that. Rather, HTC worked with Facebook to closely integrate Facebook features.
It seems like Facebook is following Google’s lead in that it doesn’t want just one Facebook phone; Google always said it wanted lots of Google phones, not just one. Last week, INQ Mobile got out ahead of the din with its all-new Facebook experience on two of its new Android devices. They don’t have a dedicated button of the kind that HTC is doing, but they’ve got all kinds of Facebook integration on the homescreen and single-touch links to Facebook activities.
HTC is calling its unofficial Facebook phones the HTC ChaCha and the HTC Salsa. Both feature a dedicated Facebook button for one-touch access so you can take a picture, for example, and immediately post it to Facebook. The devices feature Android Gingerbread 2.3.3. HTC also was showing off its first tablet, the HTC Flyer, which will hit the market in the second quarter. Pricing and specific countries were not announced.
• Printers jam for HP, too. I had a chance to see some of HP’s new devices based on webOS. The tiniest one to date, the Veer, is about the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards. It could probably fit in the hand of a 5-year-old quite easily, but there’s no pricing information yet, so it’s hard to say which segment of the population it’s aimed at (probably not small children). On the other end of the spectrum, the HP TouchPad tablet provides a nice way to show off the webOS with its 9.7-inch display.
• On a lighter note, while at the HP booth I saw a quick demo on HP’s vision for printing from mobile devices. It looks like a great concept and one that’s a natural for HP. But it did provide one of those universal moments – like does your printer ever jam? It was somewhat heartening to see a paper jam in one of HP’s demo printers.
• Windows Phone 7 + Nokia. It wasn’t immediately clear to me how other handset manufacturers were going to react to Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia. Microsoft has worked with many handset vendors that build devices using its OS, and CEO Steve Ballmer said during his keynote that won’t change with the Nokia deal. It’s non-exclusive, but at least in my mind, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some concerns on the part of other handset vendors.
• From Samsung’s perspective, it’s business as usual. “We’re not going to stay with just one, and that’s based on our philosophy that we’re all about choice,” said Thomas Chun, head of strategy for Samsung Telecommunications America. Note that the U.S. market has different carrier dynamics and carriers determine which operating systems their customers want; that doesn’t change with the Nokia/Microsoft announcement.
• It’s a big crowd. Swinging by the GSMA stand today, I checked out the little cakes on a stick with the edible GSMA logo on them, picked up a yo-yo and heard a preliminary estimate of 60,000 pre-registered MWC attendees as of Sunday. Later, the GSMA made it official, reporting more than 60,000 visitors from 200 countries were here – a record. It’s hard to tell from a show this big whether there are 2,000 or 5,000 more than usual, but it definitely felt crowded. You have to dodge your way through the crowd to avoid a head-on collision with someone who’s either talking on their mobile or texting, or just in a hurry to get to a meeting.
• Where to next? The Mobile World Congress Daily ran a feature article about the cities that are vying to be the next “Mobile World Capital.” Next year’s MWC will be in Barcelona, but after that, it’s down to four candidates. Barcelona is in the running to continue hosting the event, but Milan, Munich and Paris also are part of a GSMA initiative to anoint the “Mobile World Capital” city, which will gain academic and business development opportunities in addition to being the site of the trade show. A decision on the winner is expected in a few months.