This year, I attended MWC 2014 with 2.5 hats on:
1. Smartnotify.us was being showcased on the Intel booth as we use their XDK to develop the mobile portion of SmartNotify. So I got to experience MWC from an exhibitor’s perspective; something quite unique for a Startup that would, otherwise, not be able to afford a booth (let alone one as big as the Intel’s booth!)
2. As a panelist on gamification for the WipJam part of the expo. I got to share the stage with some awesome people: Suzanne Nguyen from Immersion, Jesse Freeman from Amazon, Alex Bubb from Nokia, and Rod Burns from WIP to keep us in check
2.5 as a Rudebaguette writer, totally undercover as people talked to me without any PR or marketing filter on (it’s fantastic what people say off-line!)
Here are my key takeaways from MWC, in no particular order
- Barcelona needs a reality check. There is a subtle line between yield management, price gouging, and customer fleecing. The city is entering the 3rd zone. The hotel we stayed at went from 40 euros a night to 165 a night during the conference. Now, I understand the theory of supply and demand, however, we are now into the realm of stupidity and I would not be surprised to see some drops in attendance soon if the trend does not stop. That or the show will be left with just the majors talking to each other, which they are already doing anyway.
- The East is rising. The amount of cool hardware coming out of Chinese and Korean factories is just amazing. Huawei’s booth is getting bigger and bigger each year and there were tons of other manufacturers (Umeox for example) who showcased their wares.
Let’s face it; these countries have the know-how and low labor costs to produce good hardware. I am wondering what will happen when they turn their attention and energy to producing software and apps. Not only could the market become flooded but also it would also quickly spell the end of many young startups in the Western world.
- No more booth babes. Last year you could easily tell how much a given product or technology sucked: The worst the tech, the better looking and the less dressed the booth attendants. Nothing of the like this year. Win.
- Quantified self is the new gamification. Everyone talks about it. Everyone wants to do it. No one has any clue about what is needed or the implications. Right now it seems that every connected device out there has a marketing pitch revolving around quantified self or big data. Very much like when every app maker used “social” and “viral” in their pitch.
- Security does not equal privacy. There were many manufacturers proposing security-based solutions, however, no one was willing to tackle privacy, especially in the realm of sharing and displaying data. I will write a lot more about data ownership in forthcoming blogs so simply consider this: Fitbit (I really like them by the way) had a challenge. People entered the challenge and their was a leaderboard showing who had walked the most during the expo. That’s all nice, however, say I am own a company and walk by the fitbit booth. I see that someone from my staff, looking at the rankings, has walked lots. Tons. Way more than he should have been had he been working at the booth. Can I use this info against him?
- The MWC App is horrible. Ok I’ve said it. The GSMA can come after me. I ended up removing the app from my Nexus. Why? Because not only would the update itself almost on a daily basis –I could have lived with that- it also wanted to access my contacts and a ton load of data on my phone. The app for the show should be a trend setter, not a data mining machine.
- Consolidate the venues. Since I was on the gamification panel and also wanted to meet some of the companies exhibiting as part of WipJam I had to go between Gran Fira and Fira Montjuic quite a bit. The main issue was that almost no one at Gran Fira knew about the other locations so the Montjuic location often felt like it was deserted. Which is too bad. I cannot imagine the exhibitors being happy with the turnout there and at the same time, people who did not make it to Montjuic missed on seeing some really good technology and vendors. Actually, going to Montjuic was the only way to meet with the Amazon folks. So hopefully next year everything will be back under one venue.
- Microsoft where art thou? Look, SmartNotify was part of the Microsoft Venture Program in Paris and we are running on Azure so I am not anti-MS by any stretch of the imagination but Microsoft lack of presence at MWC was disturbing to say the least. Nokia is making a last ditch attempt at staying relevant by going Android -in a weird and odd way still- and it looks like the MS-suits stayed packed in their hotels. So then…what’s next for MS in mobile? Right now, given the competition’s offering or positioning, I do not see why companies would develop mobile apps specially for the MS environment. The device eco-system is shrinking and it cannot compete in emerging markets (see the $25 phone from Mozilla) either. MS is far from being like Tizen but they need to start having a few real wins.
- YotaPhone2. Dual screen, it’s a really intriguing phone; I would love to test it for a bit. Definitely shows that innovation can come from smaller companies. Though whether they can sustain and distribute is another question.
- Samsung. Sony. Apple. Can’t wait to see the game of one-upmanship in the months to come. Cool devices, cool wearables, and ruthless sales and marketing teams. Grab the popcorn it’s going to be absolutely awesome to watch!
While MWC was a great experience, there was still an aspect that left me perplex: Most the products being showcased are replacing products that were launched less than 6 months ago in many instances. Is this the new standard of obsolescence or a mere reflection on where our standards are now falling towards: will not having the latest device make you less social or prevent you from quantifying yourself properly? I sure hope not but it seems that the marketing minds at the big manufacturers want us to believe so.
If you attended MWC, drop us some comments on your perspective on the show.