BARCELONA -- Transforming the mobile experience.
That's what many of the Mobile World Congress keynotes are honing in this year. And, the panel discussion on Wednesday (Feb. 29th) took the topic in the direction of how rapidly changing market dynamics are influencing the entire ecosystem, hardware design, software and app integration and the end-user integrated lifestyle.
Restating Nokia's 2011 MWC message about becoming a viable third player in what has been clearly become an Apple-Android race, chief executive officer and president Stephen Elop said the company's partnership with Microsoft and the recent arrival of Windows-based mobile phones in market now offer a real, alternative platform.
"One year ago, we shared our vision. We recognized that the industry had shifted. It has become a battle of ecosystems, and ecosystems will transform the mobile experience," Elop said. "Nokia is bringing a unique point of view to the mobile industry."
The company, which has been struggling financially these last several quarters as it's tried to bring back the shine it once had as a market leader, is banking on its Lumia line to help re-establish credibility. The Lumia 610, a Windows phone aimed at hyper-social young people, was unveiled this week at the Barcelona industry event, and comes on the heels of the Lumia 900, which came out last month in U.S.
When asked by panel moderator Rajeev Chand, managing director and head of research, Rutberg & Co. about Lumia's sales targets and Nokia's potential to grab share from competitors, Elop said the company's main objective was to go directly after Google's Android market and build a user base, country by country, outside the dominant U.S. smartphone market.
"We're starting from a small base. We're just making our first sales... and there's a very large untapped market of people who haven't bought smartphones yet," Elop said. "We're changing the clock speed of Nokia. That's what we're focused on. With our Windows phones, we want to make sure people see a consistent pattern of breath-taking devices."
But, while hardware has to look sleek enough to win consumer favor, it's not just the device that will give any one mobile handset maker an edge anymore. How well software and apps are designed and integrated will catch the eye of consumers who "want it all," said Peter Chou, chief executive officer at HTC.
"Five years ago, before smartphones came out, all of the focus was on hardware and which processors were being used. Remember the first time a camera was integrated into phone? And the race to see who had the thinner phone?" said Chou. "Then the discussion went to OS and who has the coolest app, and two years ago it moved to mobile services. Today, consumers want all of this. We have the responsibility to nurture these ecosystems in a way that all the users can enjoy their mobile experience."
"When you talk about integration, you're talking about hardware, OS, services, and apps. Ultimately, you're talking about design," he continued. "How do you get this whole thing to work?"
For HTC, which announced its One series this week, an element of integration involves having all your music in one go-to place, something Chou says the Sense 4 phone does well.
It goes much further than that, though. Location-based pinning and sharing is something both Nokia and foursquare talked about as a trend that will only grow as users look to converge all aspects of their lives.
Foursquare, which build tools so users can keep up with friend and discover what’s going on around them, has a community of 15 million people worldwide, and more than 1.5 billion total check-ins. Eventually, what foursquare -- and others are working towards -- is using technology and the data it generates "to make people passively aware of what's going on around them without being on their phones all day," said Dennis Crowley, foursquare' CEO.
For full coverage of the Mobile World Congress, see our online page on the event.