I suspect that each MWC will be better than the last. This show, I believe, is quickly becoming the leading industry conference for mobile smart device technologies. Therefore, Mobile World Congress will be one of the shows were we can expect to dig into the trends of our mobile computing tomorrow. On that point, this year a few things stand out.
Bloggers, journalists, some pundits, etc, mostly seem to believe the world would be a better place if Google’s OEM partners simply did not change Android and just shipped a stock OS the likes of the Nexus line of devices. Unfortunately in that reality hardware companies go out of business. Therefore differentiation is key if pure hardware players hope to stay in business.
Related Column: Dear Industry Dare to Differentiate
After seeing many of the Android device announcements from the leaders like Samsung and HTC, it is clear they are fully marching down the path of strategically differentiating from the pack. This I believe is a good thing all together.
Samsung for example is taking a stab with their Galaxy Note line of products at differentiating their device experience by pairing it with a companion pen experience. HTC did something similar with the Flyer but has seemed to have abandoned that path for now. For Samsung however, including the pen as an accessory (which is where it belongs) has opened the door to bundling exclusive and proprietary software in order to enhance the pen experience. Samsung is shipping with the Galaxy Note Phone (I refuse to support the Phablet term), and the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, Adobe’s touch suite of products like Photoshop and Ideas. Samsung is also including their own S Note application for note taking and other useful pen experiences. Samsung is wisely using this strategy as a key differentiator and if you watch any screen media you will see their marketing is fully committed to this direction.
HTC has also been going down this path and has now furthered their strategy even more with the new Sense 4.0 UI.
Beyond Samsung, pen accessories at large seem to be a trend around Android tablets. LG announced their Optimus VU with a pen accessory and I expect pen accessories to continue to be used as a differentiator for the time being.
It is clear at this point there will be no stock Android prioritized devices by the OEMs, thus I question the market at all for Nexus devices. Throw on top of that the fact that the stock Android devices running the latest release take over a year to roll out in any large fashion. John Gruber makes a great observation:
Best to think of today’s Ice Cream Sandwich as a developer preview of next year’s mass market Android phones.
Focus on Device Family Brands
The other trend I am noticing, which is also a positive sign, is that HTC and Samsung for example are focusing more on family lines of devices. Peter Chou of HTC during their press conference announced that HTC intends to streamline their roadmap and focus HTC innovations. HTC kicked this off by releasing a new family line of devices called the One “series.” Their flagship product is the HTC One X which sports the latest Tegra 3 chipset from NVIDIA.
Samsung also is heading this direction with the Galaxy S series, Tab family and now with the Galaxy Note. Motorola also hopefully continues this direction with the Razr family. And Nokia as well with their Lumia line of devices. This direction is needed within the industry in order to stop the absurd device naming syndrome that has plagued many OEMs. When you have dozens of devices in channel all with different names and marketing material blitzing consumers with dozens of device names etc, the landscape can look incredibly confusing.
By focusing on a family line of devices, OEMs can differentiation and then position those differentiating features within a family line of devices for their appropriate target audience.
All in all, I am seeing some positive trends coming out of MWC 2012 that encourages me about the state of healthy competition within the mobile smart devices landscape.