Inevitability in the air at Barcelona

Robert Clark
11 Feb 2008

It's the second week of February and Chinese New Year is behind us. That can only mean one thing; Valentine's Day!

And, inevitably, the event in Barcelona (formerly Cannes) known as the Mobile World Congress (formerly 3GSM, formerly GSM). Just as inevitably, the wires are already humming with those stories about the battle to be the master of the mobile web.

In truth, most of the big names of the mobile industry have other things on their minds.

First, the networking guys are seriously troubled. The market leader, Ericsson, just posted a weak result and forecasts more of the same, Nokia Siemens is still struggling to bed down its merger and make some money, while Alcatel-Lucent managecd to post its worst quarterly result in its short and unhappy life. Even the Chinese firms must be anxious as the global downturn trims carrier capital spending this year.

On the handset side, Motorola chiefs are seriously thinking about selling off all or part of their device business. Sony Ericsson last year failed to make the gains it should have from Mot's implosion. Apple's iPhone is not selling in Europe that it expected, and is yet to land in Asia.

Microsoft and Yahoo, two internet giants hoping to make an impact on mobile, are well and truly preoccupied right now.

Which leaves Nokia, Samsung and Google to make the running. My predictions: Half a dozen new partnerships from Nokia's new services division. Samsung will unveil a brace of handsets stuffed with new technology. Google will try to reassure the doubters about mobile Linux. And next year the same breathless speculation about the "mobile Web".

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