I touched down in Barcelona this afternoon, boarded the 3GSM bus to the conference and, suitcase in hand, was immediately overwhelmed by scale. This gathering of mobile movers and shakers has taken over Placa d’Espanya – the resplendant boulevard, perched beneath the Palau Nacional and flanked by two 154-foot-high brick towers, just became the centre of the mobile world for a week. So many are the delegates, the press team this afternoon ran out of media packs.
Through Thursday, the exhibition stalls at the 3GSM World Congress (to give it its proper name) will play host to more than 1,300 companies whilst, during the keynotes, delegates will hear from network, handset and content bosses like Vodafone’s Arun Sarin and Warner Music Group’s Edgar Bronfman Jr.
Proceedings don’t start in earnest until Tuesday, but that hasn’t stopped companies from a flurry of announcements about new products and partnerships:
— Windows Mobile 6 unveiled: Taking advantage, I-mate announced a new Ultimate line-up. PC Magazine says they can “function as media extenders for Windows Vista media center PCs, so you can see the Vista PC’s electronic program guide or watch prerecorded TV, either through a Wi-Fi or 3G cellular connection. Using a TV application codenamed “Snowbird,” an Ultimate 5150 streamed recorded TV programs over Wi-Fi from a Vista PC. Also big in Windows Mobile 6 is a presence-enabled contacts list plus a new Live Search (also available for Java clients) that offers upgraded mapping and directions features.
— Nokia offers YouTube and more video: Introducing a line-up of six new handsets, the Finnish market leader said it had struck a deal with Google’s video sharing behemoth allowing users to watch YouTube videos on their handsets. Vodafone announced a similar deal for its European network subscribers last week. Reuters: “The deal will allow users to reach YouTube content through a web browser on Nokia handsets through the new YouTube Mobile site, which is set to be launched soon, Nokia said in a statement.” Nokia executives were reported as saying YouTube would optimize its videos for mobiles using the H.264 standard. EE Times: “Nokia’s CEO called the N77 a handset that ‘takes mobile TV to the mainstream market’. He said the price of DVB-H chip set, including antenna, will be ‘around 7 euros’ in 2008. Asked whether the price may be too aggressive, Geust responded: ‘We know the price because we buy them.’ Nokia’s CEO projected that the global DVB-H handset market will grow to ‘5 to 10 million units in 2008′, reaching ’20 million by the end of 2009′.”
— Mobile movies aim to emulate ringtones revenue: Independent films made specifically for mobile phone screens were premiered today after Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Institute and the conference-organizing GSM Association (GSMA) commissioned six filmmakers with $20,000 and a mobile-only remit. With an odd turn of phrase, GSMA marketing chief Bill Gajda said: “Seven billion dollars was spent last year on ringtones. And if people can pay $7 billion for ringtones, I think there is a market to expand the mobile video market. At the end of the day, people will flee to quality.”
— Moblogging via 3G call: Mobile video platform provider VoxSurf announced the creation of 3GVidcast, a service which lets UK handset users post moblog video to sites like YouTube and Daily Motion by starting a 3G phone call to a mobile short code. After completing a video conference call with the service, the video is sent to the chosen online media space.