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Is the iPhone brainwashing people?

So thought one of our roving correspondents at Mobile World Congress this week in Barcelona, Spain. He's already rebooked his booth for next year -- and no, he didn't see signs of a slowdown in mobile.

Michael Neidhöfer is CEO of Netbiscuits
Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, is over.

Yesterday we rebooked our booth for next year. We could not feel any slowdown by the economic crisis.

On the contrary, people want to actively invest in mobile, no matter which region they come from.

The conference set a very positive signal. I met more people from regions other than Europe, especially the Americas and Asia, than ever before in Barcelona. Also, the Middle East is strongly moving into mobile and we met with many great customers from there.

For a company such as Netbiscuits, with a Web-based software services platform that is globally available, this is a clear indicator for growth in established as well as in new and upcoming markets.

What's really crazy to see is how much the iPhone "brainwashed"the whole mobile industry, in positive and negative ways.

In his keynote address, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked more about the iPhone than Steve Jobs actually does for his own company's product, which is kind of funny. I cannot remember a competitor promoting another competitor that strongly ever.

If the iPhone drives the adoption of the mobile Internet and lets people understand that it's important to build optimized mobile Web site and application experiences, that's great.

If you talk to people in the United States, the iPhone is the device for a good reason: it generates the biggest part of the mobile Web traffic reach in the U.S. right now, and globally helps to explain to people that phones can be microcomputers providing Internet access as you would expect it almost from your PC.

But if you talk to people from Latin America, Asia or Africa, even Europe, the picture changes, because the iPhone is not necessarily the top-selling device and people see phones still as phones and not as Internet-enabled microcomputers.

Even in Europe, for example, the Nokia 5800 Express Music device with touch screen is the top-selling mobile phone in Britain for weeks with millions of phones sold. But nobody talks about it.

In lots of these markets, users will for a long time use simpler and cheaper mobile devices with Internet access due to various reasons ranging from network bandwidth to their personal income levels.

So when it comes to serving out your content globally, you will not get far with only working for the iPhone.

Also, the next wave of high-end devices such as the G1, Palm Pre or Nokia N97 will soon increase pressure on the iPhone and accelerate fragmentation on the device and operating system-side heavily again.

That is a good thing, because it increases the overall quality of services on mobile devices. But it also creates nightmares for content publishers, who need to be ready for these devices as well.

So people only building services for the iPhone will be in big trouble soon and the drive for customers to move to convergent mobile Web development platforms will become even stronger.

One last comment on the widget and apps craziness at Mobile World Congress. Mobile companies praise widgets and apps to be the future, but if you talk to the publishers they only see widgets as "pointers"to their existing core services such as the mobile Web sites.

Jaime Lanchares is CEO of Unkasoft
The final day is always the day for exhibitors to walk around the event to see the others booths.

Being an exhibitor is hard work and since you are in your own booth from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, there are not many chances to check out the other booths. But the last day is the least busy day and most of the staff in the booths try to walk around the event.

Yesterday was the day for breaking down the booths and an opportunity to give away all free merchandise to avoid carrying heavy luggage on the way home. I was in the Mobixell booth in Hall 1, taking some pictures of the girls in the booths.

Every year, we can see less attendants/models in the booths and more booths staffed by employees. This is good for some people and bad for other people.

In summary, the Mobile World Congress was better this year for me because although there were less attendees, there was higher-quality traffic. I think that more people interested in doing business were here than casual visitors.

Some news was released about hardware, and not too much about software or content. We had more parties to go to because less people were available for invitation.

Yesterday a new device with Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 was lost by a CEO and no one knows where that prototype is.

Jim Ricotta is CEO of Azuki Systems
The third screen is well on its way to becoming a mainstream media outlet.

If any doubts remain, consider that this year's Mobile World Congress saw the launch of the MoFilm mobile film festival. Hundreds of entries -- all films of 5 minutes or less -- competed for the awards and grand prize of a Chevrolet.

As far as I know, all of these films were produced with conventional digital video equipment.

I suggested to the organizers that a special category where the acquisition and editing were all done with the phone's camera and software would take "mobile film"to the next level.

Not only did we have a film festival for mobile devices, but "content"was everywhere on the show floor. From the handset vendors to the infrastructure providers on the backend, rich content-enabling software, services and equipment were everywhere.

Wireless carriers are even embracing video, audio and various multimedia services. They see these as the key to raise data-plan adoption and ARPU.

However, in private conversations carriers worry about how their networks will efficiently deal with the increased bandwidth demands. There will be an interesting evolution for the operators as these new consumer services take hold.

Social networking was also a dominant theme of the show.

While a number of mobile startups are attempting to create special social nets exclusively for the mobile world, it is pretty clear that the "incumbent"social networks are what consumers already know and want. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other apps were on every handset.

On the desktop Web, rich content and socialization are mixed together into one compelling experience. On mobile, they are still separate today.

As we move from separate desktop and mobile Webs to just one Web experience -- with different "views" -- this is bound to change.

Chris Lennartz is vice president of product marketing at Airwide Solutions
We were honored to be joined by a group of Mobile World Congress attendees and industry leaders from Direct2Mobile, O2, Bango, Cloudmark, Telmap, Telepin and others to discuss the future of mobile messaging in a roundtable hosted by us this week.

It was eye-opening to hear perspectives from such a broad spectrum, which overall supported the results of independent research we conducted with mobile operators worldwide to get their thoughts, trends and forecasts for the years ahead.

So it was no surprise that all believe mobile messaging is going strong and will continue to grow over the next 12 months.

The general consensus concluded that this growth will come from the deployment of advanced data services, the introduction of new applications, an increase in the use of the mobile Internet and the continued adoption of smartphones -- with SMS serving as the primary foundation for such added services.

Mobile social networking proved to be a big topic at this year's Mobile World Congress and the conclusions of Wednesday's roundtable definitely point in this direction.

For example, as determined by the results of our study, 75 percent of operators will be investing in mobile social networking and/or mobile applications.