It’s day 3 here at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and after two days packed full of meetings, I finally got the chance to get off stand for an hour to explore some of the other exhibition halls. Having been held in the same venue for the last seven years there’s a lot of predictability about what you will find and where, rather like walking round the aisles of your local supermarket.
Venturing into Hall 1 it’s hard to miss the crowd which inevitably surrounds one of the more infamous stands from a well-known Russian vendor. Though the industry has changed considerably since MWC first arrived in Barcelona, the concept of an hourly floor-show is still something that baffles me. It remains a talking point in the exhibition only due to its absurd nature, but it’s hard to see what they achieve when the audience all disappears at the moment the performance has finished.
What is clearly different though is the shifting profile of companies who are now bringing in the more serious crowds on the exhibition floor. HTC has become a major force in the smartphone market and their stand is understandably one of the most vibrant places in Hall 1. However with other very different companies such as Visa and Adobe also in Hall 1, it is clear that the mobile ecosystem is expanding all the time and the Mobile World Congress could just as easily be renamed as the Tech World Congress, such is the diversity.
Heading over to Hall 8, you can only marvel at the monster stands from vendors such as Samsung, Huawei and LG, as well as operators including NTT DoCoMo, Telefonica and SK Telecom. All huge brands and correspondingly huge budgets spent on creating their MWC showcases. By contrast, round the corner at the back of Hall 8 is the Android Market where many small app companies present their offerings in an increasingly popular part of the exhibition.
I was slightly disappointed that the Android Market area is still basically the same design / layout as last year, so it’s perhaps no longer quite as ‘cool’ or different from the traditional stands. But that doesn’t seem to stop the exhibition visitors queuing up like children in a playground to go down the curved slide from the first floor back to the ground floor.
So what’s the best thing I’ve seen in my whistle-stop tour of the exhibition?
Well, stopping in at the Connected House was pretty impressive. A showcase for home automation, security, health and leisure applications, it is easy to see how the long-held dreams of a smart home full of connected applications and appliances is on the cusp of becoming reality.
However, my favourite exhibit has to be the waterproof smartphones and tablets on display submerged in fish tanks at the Fujitsu stand. Something of a gimmick? Perhaps. But I can think of one or two friends who’ve had the misfortune to drop their smartphone into the bath or toilet, who will probably be queuing up to acquire one at the first possible opportunity.
For MWC 2013 we all move to a different exhibition centre, still in Barcelona, and it will take some time for exhibitors and visitors to find their bearings once again. But rather like my local supermarket who has recently re-arranged its aisles in order to make its customers browse from their full product range, the change of Fira venue will freshen up the exhibition and drive an increased flow of visitors around the various halls. And for exhibitors like Cerillion, that can only be a good thing.