The Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, Spain this week and will play host to the launch of new smartphones, tablets and mobile apps. Here are some key news and developments to expect from the mobile-focused tech conference.
Samsung will make a big enterprise announcement
Having attended the conference last year, one thing that is abundantly clear in 2013 is how much bigger enterprise and business mobility is becoming at the Mobile World Congress.
Last year enterprise mobility was confined to one panel discussion and little else. There’s a lot more to get excited about this year, and that is thanks in part to MDM vendor AirWatch, which is hosting its Connect conference at the show.
Speakers include senior analysts at Gartner and IDC and the conference will tackle everything from enterprise mobility management (EMM) and BYOD to tablet deployments and mobile devices in education.
You can expect some pretty significant enterprise news too, and most likely from Samsung. US-based firm Detwiler Fenton claims that Samsung will launch its own mobile enterprise platform at the show while EMM vendor SOTI has told TabTimes that it has been working with the Korean firm to co-develop “some new and ground-breaking technology”.
And all of this from a vendor that recently poked fun at BlackBerry in its most recent commercial. TabTimes will be keeping a close eye on the Korean company.
Lines blur between phablets and tablets
The phablet has become big news in 2013. But whereas most phablets today are 5 to 6-inches, Asus and Samsung are seemingly intent on pushing the boundaries of size.
Asus is expected to announce the 7-inch FonePad at MWC. Running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), the FonePad has the kind of specs you’d expect from most Android tablets (16GB of memory, 1GB of RAM) but with an added twist – it will be able to make outgoing calls.
Samsung is also looking into bigger phablets and is expected to announce the 8-inch Galaxy Note at the show. The Note will have a 1280 x 800 resolution display, a quad-core 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It will also supposedly run Android 4.2 (the second version of Jelly Bean), have two cameras (1.3MP on the back, 5MP on the front) and come with Samsung’s S-Pen stylus.
How these models will affect the smartphone and tablet markets is unknown at this time, but it does show that the lines are increasingly blurring between smartphones, phablets and tablets.
Don’t expect a Nokia tablet
In the lead-up to the Mobile World Congress, there had been a lot of industry talk on Nokia's tablet plans.
And while the firm may have publicly refused to confirm that it is working on a tablet, numerous sources claim that the Finnish handset maker has already produced a 10.1-inch Windows RT device with a stand bearing some similarity to Microsoft’s Surface Touch Cover.
Indeed, reports at the end of last year had suggested that Nokia was to launch the tablet at MWC but that now looks unlikely.
Research firm Strategy Analytics doesn’t expect the tablet to debut at the show and nor does Nokia, judging by a recent email exchange with TabTimes.
“On tablets, there’s been no change in our position. We are watching the consumer response to the overall tablet market, including the first wave of Windows 8 products from Microsoft and others, to gauge how best to prioritize this opportunity,” said a spokesman.
The spokesman later added that CEO Stephen Elop would give the same answer if quizzed on the matter in Barcelona.
Tablet makers: Beware the shadow of Apple's iPad mini 2
Over the years, Apple has skilfully been able to dominate the talk at trade shows...despite not even being there.
One of the ways it does this is through the ever-lasting product rumors and this clearly has a knock-on effect on rival manufacturers.
Take the iPad mini for example. Apple is hotly tipped to be launching an iPad mini with Retina Display in March, and probably at a price which will be making some Android tablet makers very uncomfortable.
Therefore, don’t be overly surprised if you come away from MWC thinking that there could have been more tablet announcements. It may just be that vendors like Acer, Asus or even Nokia don’t want to launch a model that risks being killed straight away by Apple's latest creation.
No joke – there will be business apps
Anyone attending this year’s Mobile World Congress can expect mobile apps for business to be a trend.
There will be more than just a few in attendance. The developers of iPad presentation app 9Slides will be there, as will Lleida, which has a tablet app for closing sales deals in just nine minutes. WordLogic will be showing the new WordLogic for Business predictive keyboard app for enterprise users.
Mobile security will also be in the spotlight with Symantec and G&D partnering in an attempt to push out security applications on smartphones and tablets.
A surprise rival for Windows 8 tablets in business
This time last year Microsoft was taking the wraps off the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. A year on and there is another vendor hoping its operating system will attract OEM partners and gain some traction in enterprise.
At face value, the Linux-based Ubuntu would be very appealing to enterprise IT managers. There is full-disk encryption, the ability to set up multiple user accounts and a management tool for IT folk to control Ubuntu tablets, PCs and servers.
"We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions," said CEO Mark Shuttleworth. "Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability.”
With Canonical exhibiting at MWC, chatter on the show floor will finally extend beyond Apple and Microsoft when it comes to tablets in the enterprise.