February 2012

Mobile World Congress 2012 and the Russian Mobile Dancing Girls

mcw 2012

An exciting week in Barcelona, the threatened transport strike was called off at the last moment but instead we had a student demonstration that closed all the main entrance/exit paths to the exhibition and the metro station on Wednesday. C’est la vie but the exercise was good!

However even more notorious was the expelling of CBOSS the Russian Network company by the conference organisers who declined to explain the circumstances. However it seems clear that it all came about as the result of a complaint by the Daily Telegraph who came to hear that more was on offer than the dancing displays.

Innocent enough you might think, a regular sight as you enter Hall 2 every year however, delegates were apparently offered a "romantic dinner" with one of the dancing women in order to help the company access the current and projected state of the mobile phone business.

Their publicity material said: "We have no doubt that the champagne, caviar and a beautiful girl conducting a vis-à-vis interview are sure to raise the most correct wording of your thoughts from the depths of the subconscious.

The personal preferences of both interviewer and interviewee will be accommodated ". Apparently a stay in a Russian dacha was also on offer. Insiders have told us that the behaviour of CBOSS at the show did not generate a single complaint from the male-dominated delegates.

Anyway none of this stopped the anticipated attendance of 60,000 people, I reckon there were more or it certainly seemed that way judging by the queues at the toilets. (hot off the press I’ve just heard they had 67,000 visitors)

mwc girls

Anyway on to more serious things,

There were lots more going on with the technology, mobile cloud, HTML 5, multi core processors and the like, but nothing that really impacts our part of the world.

One of the most interesting stories, almost a by way of passing was from Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman who gave a keynote speech in which he referred to Google Bucks, a peer to peer money system they had previously looked at. However they scrapped it over regulatory concerns relating to international money laundering and currency compliance issues. Given all the problems with the Google wallet I wonder if they’re thinking of bringing it back again?

In another keynote speech from Brett Taylor CTO of Facebook in which he said ‘right now the payments experience of the mobile web is broken’ - users can’t easily make payments within the flow of an application and developers have to manage hundreds of APIs to support operators globally, to this end he has said that Facebook has announced a partnership with operators around the world to improve both the user and developer experience of operator billing.

There was lots of news about mobile wallets, it seems like a mad race with everybody trying to get their stake in the ground. The biggest new one for me is Vodafone who have teamed up with Visa to use the handset as the payment vehicle at the point of sale. Telefonica have announced a deal with Mastercard (Wanda) and Orange is doing the same thing with Barclays in the UK and already has a pilot running in London. So what the MNOs are telling me is that they now see security as a service that they can monetize. What the big players are up to is sharing the SIM where the MNO is effectively the Trusted Service Manager. The business case for the MNO is to provide the application space on the SIM to the bank(s) who have an existing stable customer base.

Then the MNO will charge the bank a few Euros per customer per year. In other cases where there is not a fixed customer base such as the cinema and mass transit then the MNO is looking to take a transaction fee. The point that becomes clear here is that in any stable scenario the SIM card approach can make sense but in all other cases you need some form of mobile device such as a MicroSD card.

The example Orange quoted to me was the UK Olympics where it made no sense trying to get applications into the SIM cards of all (most) operators.

Similarly with the silicon manufacturers, their position is that for the foreseeable future all form factors will co-exist, SIM, embedded chip and MicroSD card.

Visa and Mastercard are also taking the same position that they will support all form factors. Visa mentioned they had certified quite a few already including a card sleeve attached to an iPhone (Note iPad 3 is due to be announced on March 7th) There was lots of talk about Microsoft mobile phones and even demonstrations showing them to be faster than other smart phones, they did have a stand (MicroSoft Eire) but as is well known Apple doesn’t participate they are above all the joys of Barcelona.

Not to be left out by the MNOs Intel has appointed Giesecke and Devrient to provide trusted service management of Intel’s embedded secure elements.

Just to show how many mobile wallets there are Western Union has announced that it now has agreements with 26 mobile wallet providers (20 are MNOs the others Banks and independents) in 22 countries to provide mobile money transfers.

Interesting and not to be dismissed are dual SIM smartphones, apparently 41 million were sold in 2010 and it is forecast that this will increase to 206 million in 2014 (ref: Strategy Analytics market research company). The idea is that the citizen can use the phone for both private and business use, one for each SIM. ViewSonic has just introduced its new range of the latest Android 4 smart phones.

Gcash digital currency from Globe Telecom has now launched an app for Blackberry smartphones. There are lots of these simple payment vehicles appearing but in the mobile world it’s hard to see how they can compete with Visa’s V.me and presumably Eureka from Mastercard is going the same way.

The big general message I got from this show was that a lot of the players are desperately working out how best to monetize services (of which security is one avenue).

Dr David Everett, Smartcard & Identity News





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