Last week I set off to Barcelona for 3GSM. It is a huge event, with over 40,000 attendees and some 1,000 exhibitors. Despite its size, there was a notable lack of real breakthrough technologies (and almost no mention of VoIP, as it is a four letter word for most telcos). Lots of incremental improvements and new product releases, but nothing disruptive.
I did find a few really interesting companies, some of which I’ll write about in more detail soon. Among the more interesting things I saw at this year’s expo:
Sony Walkman (W810, or W900)
This is the best music phone I have seen to date. It is a very well designed cellphone, works on a variety of networks and supports 3G data speeds (W900). One of the things I liked most is that they did a lot of design work on the user interface, which sports some really nice iconography. Most cellphones usually have a hideous UI hiding inside a nice shell. Sony got this one right. Prediction for 2006… I wouldn’t be surprised if the Walkman brand makes a comeback. The only major flaw, the phone requires a proprietary headset and does not support Bluetooth stereo.
Samsung (Multiple Models)
I was quite impressed with Samsung’s handsets. No single device stood out, but overall they have done a lot of work to support the latest high-speed data, camera and mobile video technologies, and have produced some nicely designed phones. They did an especially good job incorporating new mobile video systems, such as DVB-H and MediaFLO, into their handsets. Samsung has devices for virtually every combination of cellular network and feature set, not a small feat considering the variety of technologies being rolled out. Watch for an article especially about Samsung’s newest devices later this week.
Motorola Mini Blue
Motorola’s Mini Blue is a Bluetooth earpiece. It reminds me a lot of the Jabra earpiece, first released about 10 years ago, except sans cords. It is tiny, has no boom mic, and looks like something out of a sci-fi flick. The mini-blue is due out in a few months. I expect this will be a big seller.
Best Access Technology
4G Systems - XSCard C3
4G Systems has made a PC card that supports multiple high-speed mobile networks, including HSPDA, UMTS, EDGE and basic GPRS. This enables mobile users to access data networks at speeds ranging from basic GPRS speeds (~50-150kbps) to megabit speeds. Overall, a great solution for mobilizing laptop and tablet computers.
Best Crossover Technology
Snell & Wilcox
Snell & Wilcox demoed a very impressed mobile video compression suite. S&W has years of experience providing video compression technology to broadcasters. They are applying this expertise to create smart video compression tools that maximize video quality, even on slow 64-128kbps wireless links.
They were not demoing yet another compression format, but rather what they do is a lot of pre-processing and optimization with existing formats. A good analogy to use are DVDs. Although they all use the MPEG2 format, you can tell the difference between a DVD producer who used a high-end compression shop versus one who used an off-the-shelf tool. S&W are experts in optimizing the compression process, and are applying this to mobile video.
They will be offering a suite of tools to mobile content producers and broadcasters that will enable them to increase the quality of their feeds.