GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 in Barcelona, Spain comes to a close today, but what a year this has been for the annual event. There were roughly 93,000 visitors and 2,000 exhibitors representing around 200 countries, as a result there was an immense amount of ideas, innovation, solutions and new challenges shared and discussed. Beyond the still expanding automotive sectorautomotive sector and new opportunities for in-vehicle solutions (safety, efficiency, infotainment, etc.), there was a real attention to a next step towards computing or technological ubiquity – the pervasiveness and ever-presence of technology – now with increasing the ease of connectivity through small and big steps.
Cutting the cord and commoditization
One of my favorite quotes from MWC 2015 press coverage really sums up how mobile and portable devices are truly in a commoditized phase is summed up by Evertiq's coverage: "And the question you are asking right now is 'why the hell should I care about a meatball loving furniture maker?' Well, they have wireless charging." Ikea now has in-furniture and home wireless charging solutions based on its partnership with the Wireless Power Consortium, which is behind the Qi standard (one of the two leading wireless charging standards – yes, that's right, that issue has yet to be formalized into a single standard, explains quite a bit about the delay in progress).
Ikea is looking to provide in-home charging solutions without all the cords. They base this market solution on consumer research noting the frustration (we all know it!) with the immense number of cords, plugs, and so forth that come with our new smart lives. What this step means though, is quite a bit more than another stylish place for our devices while they charge; because of Ikea's global market position and serving millions of consumers globally, especially in mid-market tiers, this is a real commoditization event. With the ease and guaranteed volume sales of Qi wireless charging, not only will we likely see (finally) more agreement and standards consolidation, but we will also see an opening for greater device ubiquity as charging locations increase. While Ikea is focusing on the home, we know that this is just a start and there are many companies at MWC 2015 who are displaying enterprise and retail shop wireless charging fixtures and furniture. No more fighting over the coveted sockets at the airport or café? While a light-hearted thought, the impact of this ease of extending the use-time of devices during daily routines is significant to increasing smart devices across use cases.
Ubiquity and equity
While end-devices have and still are pivotal to MWC, we are seeing more and more, as discussed earlier this week, that this is an event where global business leaders confront and debate the real issues that drive and impede the mobile economy and our current mobile era.
The market opportunities directed to mid-priced devices, emerging market consumers, and extending connected access to the wider global market are key issues ethically and financially. Access to connectivity and the mobile economy is not just an important equity issue to bring so many people into the economic opportunities so many are experiencing, but these issues are also real growth drivers for the industry. Balancing the various demands and challenges was a key issue this year at MWC. We've seen this topic before at MWC, which is notable and commendable, since often we see a focus on leading-edge devices over what will truly be a device that can be afforded by the majority of the world.
Budget + access + commodity = growth
The issue of market focus to the majority of the world's consumers really cannot be underscored enough. Not only was access to connectivity important this year at MWC, but again the number of devices dedicated to the "budget" level"budget" level increased. Here we see global brands Sony, Microsoft, Nokia, and Alcatel, to name just a few, heating up competitively in a wide-base market to provide feature-rich, stylish mid-range and budget phones for many markets.
If we consider the compound economic effect of where these different trends seen at MWC are taking the industry, the extent of growth this year and over the next few years cannot but rise significantly. There are enormous market opportunities for the wider consumer electronics market and connecting the world in this manner not only provides a basic volume increase, but as we heard from Sundar Pichai, SVP of products at Google, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook, the end result will be a real "knowledge economy" that is rooted in the mobile economy. That is the type of real change that technology can provide and that keeps us innovating and growing.