Why I Did Not Go to Mobile World Congress

In the spirit of full non-disclosure, the # 1 reason I did not go to MWC was I was invited to speak at a conference in Maui. I accepted that engagement rather than spend four days walking MWC’s aisles in Barcelona, jostling among 90,000 people who all want to get close to new slabs of glass being showcased at this event. I also was promised some free time to sit on the beach and contemplate the universe. The option of this peace and quiet overruled any potential pull towards Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong, I love Barcelona the city, but MWC’s draw paled in comparison to Maui. 

The second reason is I get to see most of the top smartphones being announced at the show in the privacy of hotel suites in the US and get one on one time with company execs in these settings. By the time Samsung unveiled their new Galaxy 6 devices, I already had a week to drool over the Galaxy Edge and try to put some analysis around its potential impact in the market. The Galaxy Edge was the best new smartphone announced at the show and it clearly puts Samsung back into the premium smartphone market and should help people forget the Galaxy S5 that flopped last year.

However, even if I had not had the Maui opportunity I would have bypassed MWC for another major reason. As my colleague Bob O’Donnell posted on Tuesday, the show was basically hardware specific. Besides the Galaxy Edge, there was very little innovation in devices at this show. I encourage you to read Bob’s first hand observations and analysis as he brings up one of the big things I think threatens the long term viability of MWC — the show is hardware-centric with very little innovation. After a while, all you are looking at are pieces of glass in various shapes and sizes all doing the same basic thing.

The other real problem about this show is the real trend is not in hardware but in software and services. Many of my friends who went to the show told me that finding anything interesting and innovative in software and services was pretty much a lost cause at this year’s MWC. This is very troubling to me. If you look at Apple’s success, software and services combined into an ecosystem has been critical to their growth and profitably. 

The same goes for Xaomi in China. They have their own stores, music services, video services, etc., and are innovating a lot around software. We see this from Micro Max in India, Cherry Mobile in the Philippines, and many other countries where they are innovating with software — especially eCommerce services. The bottom line is Samsung, Huawei, HTC, and many others have all launched products but the focus on the user experience, software, and ecosystem is almost completely absent. 

As Bob O’Donnell points out, at the user interface level we need to see new ways to interact with these devices including things like gestures, more tactile devices and better UI experiences. The event must show off how various countries are innovating in software and services, especially at the local level if it wants to keep the interest of thousands of people trekking to Barcelona year after year. I just can’t see how a hardware focused show can grow if it just keeps showing us the same thing over and over with minimal tweeks to their designs and not showcase where the real innovation in software and services are headed, especially in emerging markets where all the growth will be the coming years.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

2 thoughts on “Why I Did Not Go to Mobile World Congress”

  1. I’m curious as to how you think Xiaomi “are innovating a lot around software”. From where I’m at, they’re mostly doing good hardware for cheap ? Good in specs, looks and quality.

    And duplicating Google’s unavailable services for China (but using Google’s elsewhere), doing their own Android variant + shell (with no real innovation, really), and doing good peripherals with the same aggressive pricing.

    What distinctive software have they brought out ?

  2. We are now more than 7 years after the first iPhone, the “slab” has been iterated to death. The returns from hands on time are certainly diminishing.
    In a way this is nothing new, it has happened before in camera, audio, TV and PC trade shows. Once the form factor and technology are mature, show organisers either come up with a new service to bind the audience or the show withers.

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