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Undermining expectations at Mobile World Congress

Android MIA, Windows resurgence, the anti-iPhone and more

By , Network World
February 19, 2009 06:25 PM ET

Network World - Whatever your expectations, this year's Mobile World Congress -- the premier showcase for the global cellular industry -- was noteworthy for undermining them.

View a slideshow of highlights from MWC.

One thing did emerge with more clarity: an ever-more sophisticated integration of mobile devices and users with online data, applications and services.

Android, the Google-fueled open source operating system expected to reshape the mobile market, was largely missing in action. Only a couple of Android phones were announced at the Barcelona, Spain event, which organizers said was expected to draw 50,000 attendees.

Windows Mobile, the proprietary OS expected (or hoped by some) to be doomed to irrelevance, was the operating system of choice for several high-profile smartphone introductions that supported either the current 6.1 or newly announced 6.5 release.

People expected more attempts at "iPhone Killers." Instead, the phone named best of show was an anti-iPhone: the low-cost INQ 1 Social Mobile, actually unveiled last November, boasts a UI integrated with Web applications and services.

LTE was expected to be…well, exciting. But despite the live network demonstrations around Barcelona, and Verizon Wireless' promise to have the technology up and running somewhere in the United States by year-end, LTE was a 4G yawn. "We suspect that a workable deployment model for limited spectrum in the robustly propagating 700MHz range will be long in development," wrote Erick Kainer, an analyst with ThinkEquitity, assessing the LTE news.

Android MIA

As for Android, HTC announced its Magic smartphone running the open source OS. And Adobe Systems announced that Flash Player 10 will be available for Android (and other phone platforms) later this year, allowing handsets to render Flash animation and video on Websites.

The rest of the Android news was low-level stuff of interest to platform developers. Nvidia allied with the Open Handset Alliance to support the Android stack on its upcoming Tegra chips, designed to create advanced graphics on smartphones while minimizing power use. And Texas Instruments talked up an Android developer kit for its OMAP3 silicon.

Android was such a non-presence,that it led Daniel Eran Dilger, publisher of Roughly Drafted Magazine to wonder "Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?" His conclusion: pretty nearly.

The open source platform that got attention: the LiMo Foundation's Linux-based stack. LG Electronics, Panasonic and Samsung all demonstrated mobile handsets using it. 

Windows Mobile resurgent?

By contrast, Microsoft's proprietary Windows Mobile was the platform of choice for a number of high-profile smartphones unveiled at the show, and Microsoft announced a significant upgrade: Version 6.5 with a new look to the UI, and the inclusion of IE Mobile 6, its first full-fledged Web browser for the mobile OS. (Check out our slideshow of the new look.)

LG Electronics plans to make Windows Mobile (now rebranded to just "Windows") its primary operating system. The company plans to boost its volume of available Windows by 10-fold this year, and has 26 new models on tap for 2012 alone.

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