The 9 most important tablet trends and topics from Mobile World Congress 2012

March 2, 2012

TabTimes spent two days at the show, and spoke with numerous hardware and software vendors, app developers, as well as those in the browser community. Here we look at those who came away from a sunny Barcelona with their reputation enhanced or diminished.

SAP jumps onto the consumerization trend

MWC is a consumer show, and not really a place for enterprise software giants like SAP, right? Wrong. That may have been the case in the past, but SAP was believed to have had around 220 employees at the show this year, and – more importantly – spoke about its new strategic partnership with Samsung for the first time.

It’s going to be a huge partnership for both parties, what with the ability to safeguard Android smartphones and tablets in enterprise. It’s a great deal for all parties; SAP’s software and fledgling enterprise apps are going to get some get circulation on the popular Samsung devices, which will turn (you would have thought) better alternatives to Apple products, and more attractive to enterprise users.

As for the rest of us, well the securing of Android for the enterprise can only be good for competition, and the proliferation of consumerization and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes.

SAP really managed to ride the wave of consumerization at the show which had a few high-profile talks on topics like BYOD.

Samsung realizes there are other ways to beat the competition.

As mentioned previously, Samsung announced a link-up with SAP for its Galaxy devices to be protected with Sybase Afaria software at MWC, and the firm were one of the more distinct companies on show in Barcelona.

There were a greater number of business apps, the new Education Hub cloud service was demonstrated for the first time, and the pretty unique 10.1-inch Galaxy Note debuted, with executives pushing it for use in business and well as in the consumer world.

The mobile web is improving at a ridiculous rate

One of the key themes from this year’s show was the state of the mobile web, and Facebook was one of the main players to promote some of the advances being made with the mobile internet in Barcelona. Facebook CTO Brett Taylor revealed that the social network is supporting the new ‘Core Mobile Web Platform’ initiative to prioritise HTML 5 web standards.

The impression we got, both from the floor and show talks, was that the focus for the internet was on mainly aimed to how fast, fluid and easy mobile browsing can be, and there were certainly some great demos to see.

Google’s Chrome app for Android blew us away with a number of excellent features, while Firefox has also made nice advancements with its app for browsing on Android tablets. And with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview showing that Windows 8 tablets will be able to pick up on web searches even quicker than before, and can allow users to send links with minimum fuss, the mobile web improvement looks set to continue for some time to come.

MWC 2012 raises awareness for HTML 5 apps

HTML5 apps were mentioned at regular intervals by MWC panellists, and at developer meet-ups (hosted by Intel), while there were a number of players promoting services offering HTML 5 apps, or even HTML 5 app stores, like Firefox's Mozilla Marketplace and Brightcove’s App Cloud.

This can only be a good thing for the proliferation of web-based apps, and the future of the developer industry as a whole.

Clever Asus mimics Motorola

There wasn’t too much in the way of tablet innovation at MWC, but that was not the case with Taiwanese maker Asus, which introduced the clever Padfone, a dock-able Android smartphone which slots inside a 10.1-inch tablet, officially known as the Docking Station. The Padfone is similar to Motorola’s Atrix design from CES 2011, so while there are no marks for originality, Asus should be praised for actually coming to market with something a little unconventional.

Microsoft has the last laugh at MWC with Windows 8

By announcing the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 in the afternoon of 29th, Microsoft ensured it would dominate the news up until the close of the show the following day.

Microsoft also made its mark simply on the organization of the event itself. The event was in a great hotel outside of the main exhibition (making the news big in its own right, not just part of the MWC round-up), and quickly got down into the features and demos of the new OS. It may not have been big or flashy, but the new features of Windows 8 meant it didn’t need to be.

Most tablet manufacturers are playing the waiting game

As far as tablets were concerned, there were a few new devices, and lots of existing tablets receiving upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). But was there anything truly spectacular? Maybe not.

The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note is different from the form factor side of things, and Huawei’s MediaPad boasts some impressive specifications, but the few other new tablets were fairly ordinary, although arguably better in terms of specs than the slates churned out to market a year ago. As Gartner said before the show, the lack of any ground-breaking tablets at the show may be down to makers waiting for iPad 3 and Windows 8 to arrive.

Intel finally enters the mobile game

Intel’s press conference wasn't well publicized, but it was still a pretty big moment for the chip maker in its attempt to crack the mobile market, even though all the announcements really centred on smartphones.

Paul Otellini, the chief executive of Intel, revealed that Orange would be launching the first Intel-powered smartphone in Europe (using the Atom Z2460 chip), announced deals with Visa (for Intel chip support for payWare, Visa’s mobile payment technology) and ZTE, and said that Lava International, a small handset company looking for growth in the Indian market, will be using Intel Atom processors for their own move into the smartphone business.

Best Buy CEO nails tablet data cost issue

Keynote speeches aren’t always punchy or that informative, but out of 30 keynote speeches in total (including those on panel discussions), the talk by Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn was one of the more poignant for tablets.

Dunn tackled the ‘digital divide’, and said that the game has changed, with the expression previously used to describe those with or without PC, now being used to describe those with or without internet. Dunn warned that mobile charges for internet connection on smartphones and tablets could once again widen that digital divide.

“There is usually a significant up-charge for a device that connects to the mobile internet,” said Dunn. “Tablets are a good example. In the US we typically see an additional $130 charge for that device versus one that connects via WiFi.” The Best Buy CEO talks a lot of sense, and it's certainly a topic that is relevant to the future deployment of tablets.

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