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Wide open spaces mark Mobile World Congress 2010

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Comment Barcelona 2010 will be remembered as the year the industry banded together against a common enemy: the Americans.

The first day of Mobile World Congress is when the big announcements come, and sure enough Nokia and Microsoft didn't disappoint with a new platform apiece, even if we're not going to be able to use either of them until the latter half of 2010. But as the show progressed one was struck by the empty spaces, and the enormous amount being spent by eastern companies at a show which will never see Apple or Google booking space.

Lots of room in here

I remember when all this was stands, as far as the eye could see - but that was a year ago

Not that there aren't stands, just not as many as there were last year, and those we spoke to claimed to have paid less than last year too - none of which is good news for the GSMA:

Selling the MWC brand

The Mobile World Congress souvenir stand - got to keep the revenue coming in somehow.

Apple and Google might not be interested in European carriers, but Microsoft is. Microsoft's attempts to get into mobile extend back to when Europe led the mobile industry, and network operators dictated technologies. Old habits die hard, and Microsoft still has enough friends in the European mobile business to be here. Orange joined Steve Ballmer on the stage to announce Windows Phone 7 Series, along with a rep from AT&T. You won't find Google hosting a press conference, however - the Chocolate Factory announced its Nexus One handset during the (American) Consumer Electronics Show.

Samsung, HTC and Huawei all had huge stands - Samsung's being particularly exuberant, though looking at the stand, one could easily mistake the Bada-based Wave for the only phone Samsung makes. The company has looked at Apple's lock-in and decided it would like to have a go at that, so is pushing Bada with breathtaking enthusiasm both on the stand and around the show:

Samsung making waves

Wave, and Wave, and Wave and... is that an Omnia II in the distance?

But it's not just Samsung which finds mobile applications attractive. The show had an entire hall devoted to application developers - the "App Planet" - though the "Green Tech Pavilion" was sneaked in there too. Given that their market is direct sales to consumers, one might wonder why small-scale developers would be here, but it's the dream of being picked up for preinstallation by a manufacturer, or a network operator, that draws them to Barcelona.

But with the numbers down again, the quality of attendee is getting too good for the average stand. We heard complaints that the CEO and CTO-level people who came weren't the right people for an initial contact, and the middle management who might be receptive to new ideas consequently didn't make it this year.

But perhaps things will pick up next year - we understand the contract to host the event has been renewed for the next couple of years at least, so there's still time to invite the Americans over. ®

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