Mobile World Congress 2013: Preview Day

Today is the day before Mobile World Congress, basically the biggest trade show for all things mobile. Sunday acts as a preview day where companies can show off new products before MWC opens Monday. This Sunday Mozilla got into the headlines early by formally showing off FirefoxOS, a mobile operating system based on web technologies and named after their web browser. Mozilla announced both phones and partners for their system; 18 carriers including Sprint and phone OEMs like ZTE are part of the initiative. Phones are expected in the market in 2014.

On the tablet front, both HP and Lenovo showed off 7 inch Android tablets aimed at competing with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire 7. Both companies are aiming these devices close at or under the already affordable Nexus 7; with the HP Slate 7 priced $169.99. Samsung also announced the Galaxy Note 8.0 an 8 inch version of its Note tablet/phone line.  

One interesting observation from today’s events is the plethora of Linux based mobile OSes. In addition to FirefoxOS Canonical will be at MWC showing of Ubuntu for phones and tablets as well as the Samsung/Intel collaboration Tizen. The thing I’ve noticed about these systems is how much they resemble and operate like Android and iOS even down to features like notifications. I’m not knocking these platforms but I’m just surprised but maybe I shouldn’t; many of these third tier systems sell themselves on the ability for developers to easily port Android applications. Another interesting thing is how these systems sale themselves as open but also for their ability to be locked down and changed by carriers. Mozilla spent a some time talking about vendor customizability as a benefit of FirefoxOS.

To me it only illustrates how hard it is to penetrate the mobile market, especially in competing with Android for carrier and OEM attention. The third tier systems also highlight the difficulty of competing with Android’s free model; all these operating systems are free but Android has the market penetration and offers the same ability to customize that they do.

What will be interesting this year is what will be the big news. Android has become the default mobile platform and other than specs a lot of devices are mostly the same. Windows Phone, while making modest gains, isn’t a major player and with Windows 8 out I wonder if Microsoft will be part of the MWC conversation. Blackberry has also released the Z10 so I expect some news from them, but again their impact is unknown.

One thing is certain, Apple will be in the conversation but not to the effect it has had in past.

That’s it for now have a good week.

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