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Mobile World Congress Restarts Smartphone and Tablet Releases


Next week, February 24-28, GSMA Mobile World Congress 2014 (MWC) opens in Barcelona, Spain to what is expected to be another year of record growth in attendance. MWC has quickly become the leading tech show following International CES in Las Vegas, USA every January. This year's attendance is expected surpass last year's 72,000 record attendance representing over 79 countries and 1,700 exhibitors.

MWC focuses on the mobile industry which sets it slightly apart from other global tech events, but with the continued penetration of mobile into much of the tech device array, those lines are more blurred meaning MWC is really a leading showcase for new mobile solutions and devices.

64-bit tablet competition starts

There are many breaking-news stories with release dates set to coincide with MWC, just as with CES. Among the tablet news events is the push to 64-bit processors in tablets, notably the first debut of this class of tablet device is set to happen next week at MWC, according to PCWorld:

Tablets running a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 on top of Intel's 64-bit Atom processor, Bay Trail […].

The Bay Trail Atom chip (also known as the Atom Z3680) is Intel's first 64-bit system-on-a-chip. Given that the Atom chips are compatible with Intel's existing Core lineup, the Windows-on-Atom transition should go fairly smoothly, sources expect.

As PCWorld points out, while the Windows OS and the release of 64-bit devices running Windows is newsworthy, the momentum right now is really more focused on Android devices which hold a majority (roughly 60%) of market share presently. One of the questions though is the Android support of 64-bit architecture (both software and hardware):

Until Samsung and Qualcomm can begin shipping their own 64-bit ARM chips, Intel and Apple are the only chip vendors with 64-bit tablet silicon. (AMD’s 2014 mobile roadmap is based upon two processors named "Beema" and "Mullins," both low-power 32-bit chips.) Qualcomm announced the 64-bit Snapdragon 410 in December, saying it would sample during the first half of 2014 and ship in commercial devices in the second half, for sub-$150 smartphones. So far, however, Qualcomm's MWC teaser page seems to indicate that Qualcomm will concentrate attention on the company’s wireless technologies.

Nokia and possibly Sony are also rumored to perhaps unveil an update to their tablet line-up, here we see the latest on each, respectively, according to DigitalTrends:

There has been some talk about an 8-inch tablet – possibly the Nokia Lumia 2020 making an appearance at MWC […].

We'll almost certainly see the first new hardware set to have Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, and it could come in phone and tablet form. The new flagship Lumia 1820 and a couple of Lumia 1520 spin-offs have been leaked. […]

And among Sony's possible debuts:

[…] the Castor tablet has been leaked under the name Xperia Tablet Z2. If the leaked spec sheet is accurate, the alterations may well primarily be internal. A Snapdragon 800, 3GB of RAM, and Android 4.4 KitKat may be installed. The screen should stay at 10.1-inches with a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, and be fitted to a waterproof body measuring just 6.4mm thick.

There are many others who will be debuting their latest tablet series at MWC, including Huawei, possible Google Nexus, and of course one of the leaders in the tablet and mobile device wars is Samsung who will certainly be showcasing a wide array of devices, including 64-bit architectures but just in what form we don't know nor do the rumor mills seem to have a definitive answer just yet.

While the tablet question regarding 32- versus 64-bit processing power is not the only differentiator that will be lauded at MWC, it is one of the compelling questions here at Smith's MarketWatch because of the movement in competition with traditional PCs and what these new devices might mean for the laptop, Ultrabook, and desktop enterprise hardware supply chain down the road. On the consumer end, pricing is still the heavy-weight deciding factor for most devices, especially tablets, and the average consumer is likely not going to be as drawn by the difference between 32- and 64-bit architectures as they are by ASPs at this point in market adoption.

Smartphone's continue to span the spectrum

Of course there's more smartphone news than we can begin to cover today, even with just leaks and sneak peeks. On the top of the deck is the news that hit earlier around Blackberry's unveiling of their latest device next week at MWC, the Blackberry Z3 'Jakarta' touchscreen phone, as discussed in DigitalTrends and BerryReview. According to the DigitalTrends report, which puts this new device in a mid-range price targeting developing markets rather than hitting the mature markets to compete head-to-head with high-end "superphones" where Blackberry has its Z30 still in market competition:

If the leak is correct, this isn't going to be a sequel to the massive BlackBerry Z30, but a similarly sized phone with a lower price. This fits in with comments made by both BlackBerry CEO John Chen and Foxconn's chairman, who indicated the first phone produced together would be aimed at developing markets.

Nokia, like Samsung, is set to release an array of mobile devices as it did last year at MWC. Consistently keeping an eye on emerging market demand, Nokia is going to unveil its latest device targeted for the Indian market at MWC, as reported by Bloomberg. Notably, we expect new device line-ups from Samsung, who also has its eye on the emerging market, in addition to Blackberry poised to compete in that space, as well as LG which is set to also showcase new low-end L series phones running KitKat, as discussed in ComputerWorld.

We certainly expect to see heated competition in the mobile phone device space coming from all OEMs. MWC should provide an interesting set of new devices to (hopefully) help spur the full suite of market demand to meet the various price-points and feature needs – of interest will be how these devices will be strategically positioned geographically and architecturally (plus pricing) and what the connection to wearables and the growing link to enhance autoinfotainment and the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity options all from personal mobile devices.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 18:45 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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