At least several hundred exhibitors are here this week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. Each of them seems to be launching either a new app store or a new operating platform. What these inescapable announcements fetch in buzz and inventiveness, they misjudge in audience tolerance. The impact goes beyond mere ennui, of which there is plenty, and touches at the heart of what makes a corporate mobile strategy nearly impossible to birth: There are too many choices. Make no mistake: The platform wars will rage for years, and the corporate IT manager could suffer the casualties. Not only must IT choose a platform its user base will be happy with, and that it can adequately support and manage (securely), but it must also choose based on the company’s overall mobile strategy. If it ignores the last part, it will miss a major opportunity to increase productivity by extending its applications to those mobile platforms — an easy task when a single platform becomes the corporate standard.
On a planet with around 6.8 billion people, we’re likely to see 5 billion cell phone subscriptions this year. Reaching 4.6 billion at the end of 2009, the number of cell phone subscriptions across the globe will hit 5 billion sometime in 2010, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The explosion in cell phone use has been driven not only by developed countries, but by developing nations hungry for services like mobile banking and health care. “Even during an economic crisis, we have seen no drop in the demand for communications services,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Toure at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, “and I am confident that we will continue to see a rapid uptake in mobile cellular services in particular in 2010, with many more people using their phones to access the Internet.”
Apple’s willingness to let competing Web browsers onto the iPhone will soon be put to the test. Norwegian software maker Opera (OPERA:NO) said on Feb. 10 that it has created a version of its mobile browser that works with Apple handsets and that it would soon try to get a green light from Apple to put the browser on the iPhone and iPod touch.