Operating systems, software and application stores were the big news at the recent GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an event that typically showcases the latest and greatest in mobile hardware – although there were plenty of sexy new phones on display as well, despite the economic downturn.
Microsoft, Google and Palm all took the opportunity to unveil upcoming versions of their mobile operating system software. Microsoft announced Windows Mobile 6.5, which is expected to launch before the year’s end. It ditches the traditional folder and menu system in favour of one-touch on-screen icons and gesture-based controls, bringing it in line with its competitors. Google demonstrated a prototype of its Android operating system that added an on-screen keyboard amongst other enhancements. Palm released additional details about its upcoming Web operating system, set to debut on the highly anticipated Pre smartphone. It will reportedly support Flash video straight out of the box.
Vodafone and Opera revealed plans to release a Web browser for cheaper mobiles. Named Opera Mini, the browser will compress Web pages by as much as 90%, enabling many existing low-end handsets with Web access. Nokia, meanwhile, said it would launch an online store in May, selling downloads of applications specific to Nokia handsets.
In keeping with climate change concerns, members of the GSMA mobile phone industry announced they would standardise mobile phone chargers by 2012. The move will allow consumers to recharge their phones using any charger and also reduce the greenhouse gases related to charger manufacture.
As always, a host of companies unveiled new and innovative handsets, many of which were among the industry’s worst-kept secrets. Acer, better known for producing laptop computers, declared its intention to enter the smartphone market. The company will launch four handsets running the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform, while Samsung will produce three phones running the Android platform in 2009.