I've spent the last few days in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, the world largest gathering of vendors mobile devices and services. My focus, of course, is that of a development tool product manager... so don't expect a review of the devices announced.
A Huge Conference
The conference is huge. Number of attendees is really impressive. Some large companies had booths of hundred of square meters. Traffic and taxi lines where out of control. And, quite surprisingly, Internet connectivity was extremely poor... but, again these are not my main points. Event venue pictures are below.
Devices, Devices, Devices
Although my focus was not really on devices, I have to say I was impressed by a few:
- The coming Samsung 12" tablet has a great screen, quad-core CPU, and can have up to 4 apps on screen at the same time, each the size of a large phone app. I was really impressed by this, more than the new Galaxy phone (which seems nice but more expected).
- Samsung had also the new Gear watch (not not on display), with a twin light version for outdoor activity which looks interesting. Lots of "wearables", but most of them ugly, with limited battery, odd form factors. I guess only a few will survive.
- The Nokia X new phone to me is the best low-cost Android phone out there. It is so much better in terms of quality, speed, screen than Samsung and other vendors low-cost phones. Nokia knows how to build a phone, for sure. But given the importance of this phone, more about it later.
- HP is full speed into medium to high range phones and phablets. Don't ask them about Windows... they really want to differentiate themselves from being a "Microsoft hardware vendor"
- Intel primary focus seemed pushing the full Windows 8 (not RT) platform, showcasing many interesting and high quality tablets, with some very creative ways to fold the keyboard. Light enough, but extremely powerful compared to a regular tablet.
- Pens are back, aside using fingers. The fact you have more control on the actual position you click is a key reason. Not sure, though.
Here is an image and the specs of the new large screen Samsung device.
Which platforms are up and which are down? With Apple and iOS not at the center of the stage, it was Android all over, of course. And Android with ARM CPUs to a very large extent. The new Samsung 12" tablet is ARM only (unlike their current 10" device, which in some cases has an Intel CPU). Asus has an Intel tablet, that ships with an ARM emulator.
What about Windows phone? While it is true a few new vendors announced support for it (but we'll have to see if this turns into actual sales) the big news was about Nokia (soon-to-be-acquired by Microsoft) releasing 3 Android phones and announcing 2 more in the pipeline. As I mentioned above, for their price these seem to be the best Android phones out there. Nokia is not using Google Android, but its own customized versions, more or less like Amazon did with its Kindle Fire. So there will be a Nokia App Store for Android, it own maps, its own advertising and in-app payment and some more. On those phones there is no Google Play, and the search engine (not surprisingly) in Bing. Now the number of applications that can run on those phones is large... basically almost all Android apps that don't make use of Google Services.
This is the file system of the Nokia X phone:
Nokia, Android, and Microsoft
Officially, Nokia move has been "downplayed" as for emerging markets, only low cost devices, and so on. To me these are just excuses. A 5" device? The best value on the low-cost Android market can make wonders also in the first world. Which is were Samsung is selling in large volumes also those entry devices. Also, out of the Windows phones Nokia is selling mostly at the low end of the spectrum, so this is exactly a replacement offer. My personal idea is a top level Nokia Android phone with a great Nokia camera could have a huge impact.
It you don't trust my words read this piece on ZD Net, which I mostly agree with: www.zdnet.com/hello-ms-android-good-bye-windows-phone-7000026774/.
And if you think, this is just Nokia, nothing to do with Microsoft thing twice. Could have Nokia done this without Microsoft approval? How comes Skype (also owned by Microsoft) is pre-installed on the phone? How comes most of the services (search, remote storage) are from Microsoft, if the company things this project is a mistake? To me, if Microosft wants to have a foot in the devices and services world, they cannot to it form the "our operating system only) perspective. Not in todays, world.
At the development side, Nokia had a full day event to convince Android developers to support their app store, to the point they were giving out free phones in exchange for porting one single application. They claim Android developers will have a many new users for their apps, users previously confined on Windows. So this is how the Nokia Android (above) and Nokia Windows (below) developers areas looked like, in terms of interest:
I know, this is mainly an Android event --- but it is only because Android is so ubiquitous. Nokia also had a large green bus (Android green) focused on developers:
And, Finally, Embarcadero
So what does this mean for us at Embarcadero, and the developers who use our product. You can join the "same code base, new user base" slogan, given the majority of Delphi Android applications will run on the Nokia X phones. This is the 5 minutes experiments I did at the show, plan doing some more testing in the coming days. This is my (son) Google Play Minifigures app on a Nokia phone:
This is certainly great news. While we will see the implications for Windows Phone platform, to me if this was a small one, it looks like it will have an even more difficult times ahead. By the way, we had our own booth (for the first time), made some great contacts, and introduced RAD Studio to app developers who had never seen it, receiving a lot of positive feedback.
That's all form Barcelona. I'm still in Spain, but currently in Alicante.