Friday, February 18, 2011

Facebook, Android, China and More at Mobile Conference

Sent to you by SangiovanniArt via Google Fast Flip:



Facebook, Android, China and More at Mobile Conference

By JENNA WORTHAM BARCELONA, Spain — This week, tens of thousands of mobile technology executives, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts descended on this beautiful city to watch demonstrations of new software, get a close look at the latest phones and tablets and stop at a tapas bar or two. Amid the multitude of products and services introduced at the Mobile World Congress, several major themes threaded their way into many of the announcements and panels. I've emptied out my notebook and listed them below. Phones Go Facebook: Although Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has repeatedly denied rumors of an official Facebook phone, several devices unveiled at the conference showed off software that is tightly integrated with the social networking site. INQ, a small handset maker based in London, showed off two such devices. HTC worked closely with Facebook to develop two phones that incorporate Facebook applications like chat, messaging and photos directly into their user interfaces. Perhaps the most interesting introduction of the week came from Gemalto, a Dutch company that unveiled a SIM card with a Facebook application included. This allows phone owners who do not have access to the mobile Internet to sign up for Facebook and update their status messages using the handset's text-messaging channel. Android Overload: Just like at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, Android's tentacles reached into dozens, if not hundreds, of smartphone demonstrations, application booths, mobile discussions and tablet computer unveilings. When asked how many Android devices were at the show, Andy Rubin, one of the chief architects behind the operating system at Google, confessed, "I have no idea." This year's show also marked the first time Google had a presence on the showroom floor, and the company went all out to endear itself to attendees. It handed out honey-infused smoothies to celebrate the Honeycomb version of Android and encouraged visitors to make use of a playground slide that snapped a Polaroid picture at the bottom. Conference rumor has it that Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, went for a ride on it. Chinese Competition: Of all the flashy booths offering hands-on demonstrations of mobile wares, two jumped out as making a bigger splash than most. Huawei and ZTE, two hardware manufacturers based in China, say they are looking to make an aggressive play for market share in the United States. Both are betting on a strong portfolio of chic — yet cheap — smartphones and tablets to help win over American shoppers. "Our traditional market is the emerging market," Lixin Chang, chief executive of ZTE USA, said in an interview. "Last year, we broke out in Europe. This year, we'll break out in the US" Mobile Money: Near-field communication, or NFC, was one of the hottest mobile technologies at the conference. Everyone, from tech executives to the heads of wireless carriers, touched on the lucrative business opportunity that awaits the introduction of services that let you wave your phone to pay for something. On Thursday, the crush of people hoping to attend sessions on mobile finance and NFC technology was so big that organizers decided to repeat several of them. "It's definitely an overnight revolution," said Elvira Swanson, a senior business leader at Visa who works in its mobile payments division. "But it's a coming evolution." I'd welcome additional themes and thoughts from those who attended the conference in Barcelona and those who followed along at home....

Read full story