With the official week of Mobile World Congress (MWC) wrapping today in Barcelona, Spain, the industry has, of course, been a buzz with comparisons and forecasts for the 2011 mobile consumer electronics (CE) market (see this wrap up from FT.com and this one from ElectronicsWeekly). Many of the mobile devices showcased were demo-ed at CES last month in Las Vegas, Nevada, and were more formally rolled out here along with additional features and capabilities highlighted, as well as some more hints to release dates (and glimpses into market strategies).
What's hot? Well, you already know the answer: smartphones and tablets (called smart wireless devices (SWD)). So, what's interesting about that news? The features being showcased are centering more and more on Near Field Communications (NFC), SWD multitasking, increasingly improved cameras (which calls into further question the future of the CE digital camera market), touchscreens, more widespread low energy Bluetooth (1 billion devices in 2011, see this ElectronicsWeekly blog from the show), and finally looking to 2012, the move to dedicated, quad-core mobile graphics processors at 2.5GHz! supporting 4G (cf. this report on the Qualcomm chipset based on ARM processor).
While many CEOs underscored at MWC what we've seen for a few quarters now (such as Nokia CEO here), that the SWD 'ecosystem' has transformed into a battleground for feature sets over components, this should not be understood as a slowdown for the semiconductor industry. There is, to be sure, an increased performance expectation from the software and services industries, but the devices themselves need to be able to support the imagination of the software engineers while the service providers will be looking to upgrade their data handling capabilities, service areas, and licensing agreements with vendors to take advantage of NFC's future for mobile swiping payments (and the necessary hardware and chipsets to make mobile payment possible). All of these features and capabilities do rely on increased component functionality and cost, boding well for sales and continued development (such as femtocells and 4G basestations) and healthy market opportunities for the semiconductor industry.
The question of the SWD versus notebooks and netbooks is, however, another story; one that may spread to gaming CE devices with the official launch of the SonyEricsson Xperia Play.