The annual telecom industry is once known as the Mobile World Congress, but now officially called the MWC Barcelona, begins next week. And while the annual collection of the telecom industry's players and practitioners can feel like a punishing plague of grasshoppers falling on this otherwise gorgeous Spanish coastal town, it can also serve as an interesting barometer of the progress of the industry, wherever it has been and where. any time it goes. Or at least hope it goes.
But with more than 100,000 people participating and exhibitors of all shapes and sizes frees up a tidal wave of announcements about this autonomous gizmo and the connected way of doing things, sorting through all the hoopla and finding out what really matters .
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1. Phones are back, kinda sorta
In recent years, smartphone messages at MWC have triggered a collective "Meh." Last year, for example, much of the "buzz" (be aware of the use of irony here) was around companies adding a "notch" to their new flagship phones while claiming they didn't completely copy Apple's iPhone X. A notch!
This year, the magic words are "foldable" and "5G." Although the other is no doubt a word, in itself. But anyway. The industry is looking for something, which will stop the carnage of tumbler smartphone sales around the world and convince consumers to stop holding on to their very good smartphone and instead take out a new mortgage or sell a body to buy a new whizbang -model. The hook did nothing good.
Samsung has already kicked things off by holding its "Unpacked" event this week, instead of Sunday night in Barcelona before the MWC: Electric Boogaloo officially starts on Monday. Samsung showed a 5G phone and a folding phone called Galaxy Fold. Although it should actually be the Galaxy Fold, because it is where fear and wonder begin, not when you fold it. But maybe I split hair.
Huawei is expected to try it by uncovering on Sunday a phone that is 5G and foldable. The unstoppable LG device eventually uncovers its own 5G phone, like the good people at ZTE.
Poor Sony apparently launches updated smartphones that are only up-to-date smartphones. And HBD Global will roll out a Nokia PureView 9 five-camera smartphone. Five cameras!
2. Huawei: Innovator or Industry pariah?
In an alternative universe, Huawei would be striding in this show while everyone was genuflecting and kissing their ring. The Chinese telecommunications company has become the world's leading telecommunications equipment vendor, and some argue has developed more technically advanced 5G equipment than anyone. On the consumer side, smartphone sales continue to continue and the company has made great strides in Europe.
Alas for Huawei, the US government is not impressed. Worse, it believes the company is essentially in league with China's central bank, planting secret backdoors in its products to allow the government to spy on people all over the world. So the US government has anything but blocking Huawei equipment in the US, and it is lobbying Allies to do the same. Oh, and it convinced the Canadian government to arrest the company's CFO, who happens to be the daughter of the founder. And it is said the CFO and the company have been charged with the theft of business secrets.
This is a great bummer for Huawei, no doubt, but it is also a great pickle for the entire telecom industry. You can't just ignore Huawei, but do you risk having fun with them and inflicting the wrath of the US government? How Huawei is Treated at MWC: Skyfall can offer some tips on whether or not the industry is going to rally around them or just ghosting them.
3. Microsoft. Wait, Microsoft?
"Hi, did you just write" Microsoft "in a story about MWC: Die Harder, the giant teleconference that used to become known as the Mobile World Congress?" Can you ask. Why, yes, I did. It is true that Microsoft's latest story in the realm of mobile has been mostly a tragic, slow-moving burst of irreparable mistakes and comic errors in grotesque sizes. To say it friendly. The company lost its advantage early in mobile to Apple. The mobile operating system for the Windows operating system has never become a thing. And then there was the [warning: the following sentence contains graphic scenes of violence not suitable for children under the age of 17] acquisition of Nokia's mobile handset business.
But hey, let's turn the page! Microsoft announced that it is holding an event Sunday night, before MWC: Tokyo Drift, the previous yada, yada, yada conference. It appears that the company is going to provide some sort of update on Hololens, as suggested by this not-so-cryptic man from the man who helped to make it:
– Alex Kipman (@akipman) February 11, 2019
Microsoft's big guy Satya Nadella will be there herself, probably talking about magnified reality, and just taking a victory after he saw that his company card became the world's most valuable company last year.
4. Edge computing, AI, and infrastructure: Get psyched!
If the words "edge computing" don't get your heart pumping and adrenaline surging, then you're … just an average, normal human. But hey, these are important things, so listen! Yes, 5G is completely neat, but it also creates new issues, which in the technological world are also being rebranded as "opportunities." Actually, it's a good business model: Solving the issues you're helping to create!
Anyway, while 5G is super-duper fast, the way the internet is built for at the age of cloud computing, is not ideal for 5G. If everyone is going to connect to a gazillion gadget that is always on and always transmits data and is automated and needs to make timely decisions measured in less than milliseconds, then the data transmits over geographical distances to a centralized cloud where the data is analyzed and processed and then transmitted Back creates too much wait, no matter how fast the Amazon and Google hamsters make these sliders rotate.
So all that computing needs to be physically pushed closer to the devices, or even placed on the devices, so that things like autonomous vehicles and connected factories and wireless live streaming virtual reality can really hum. Granted, Edge Calculation Equipment Announcements aren't the things that Internet clicks are made of. But this week you can expect to hear a lot from companies like Intel, Qualcomm and Arm and various partners about new chips and hardware and edge display software.
Likewise, there will be a lot of talk about artificial intelligence, which is necessary to handle this forthcoming data flow. And the telecom industry itself is now delayed to get into things like blockchain, including an announcement that waited this week from the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger project for a new group specifically focused on how distributed ledgers can help the industry use the data more efficiently.
5. OK, 5G, but now what?
As is common, everyone is accumulating over the new phones this time of year. But at the age of 5G, phones become the least interesting part of the equation. The last decade or so, what made smartphones so exciting was not just the phone, but it became a kind of smart hub whose connectivity and computing power enabled all sorts of other connected devices that weren't so smart.
But with lightning fast 5G and all the data power (see edge calculation!), The real transformation will happen elsewhere. At the connected factories, or the smart cities, or livestreaming VR, or wireless video games, or digital health, or autonomous drones flying far beyond the field of view. The phones are basically very nice cameras (or five of them!) And remote controls. The real disturbance will be more interesting and everywhere, especially as the industry is trying to figure out the business model of all this connectivity and computing power.
Listen to the use of matters that sound reasonable and exciting. Finally, it can be the real legacy of MWC: Doomsday.