Big News Roundup from the Mobile World Congress: Tablets, Nokia, NFC and WAC

There were a number of major stories that drew focus this week at the Mobile World Congress, which is wrapping up. Here's my summary and commentary about what I thought were the biggest news items surrounding the conference. 

Nokia-Microsoft: 

Almost a week ago Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced that Nokia would bet its future on the Windows Phone OS. Discussion of the wisdom and viability of that move has continued unabated. A group of nine Nokia shareholders tried to organize a revolt and called for Elop's head, only to abandon their effort a little more than a day later. 

Nokia several outlets are reporting that the first "Nokisoft" phones won't be out before October 2011 at the earliest

NFC-Mobile Payments:

There was plenty of NFC news coming out of Barcelona, with RIM saying that "a majority of new BlackBerry devices" this year will include near-field communications technology. All Android OS updates henceforth will also include NFC, as the Gingerbread-enabled Nexus S does now. Google CEO Eric Schmidt sees NFC being used extensively in advertising as well as in mobile payments. 

T-Mobile will be making a big NFC push in Europe and later in the US. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom and other EU carriers France Telecom, Vodafone and Telecom Italia are joining forces to help advance adoption of NFC-based payments in Europe.

Facebook Phones:

HTC introduced two Android-based phones with dedicated Facebook buttons. This followed the INQ Facebook Cloud Touch phone, which offers a new and innovate Facebook interface on top of Android. Facebook and OEMs will be offering many more devices that seek to integrate Facebook deeply into the user experience and even the branding of the handset.

What's important here is the rise of Facebook as a huge force in mobile (and at some point a mobile ad network) and the beginnings of some interesting and innovative new interfaces on top of Android. 

Tablets and Android Handsets:

A range of tablets made their appearance at MWC or this week. Those include the Motorola Xoom (which will be $799 as originally thought) as well as slates from HTC, LG, Acer, HP-Palm. Samsung showed off a 10" tablet, the Galaxy 10.1. And more are on the way. However, despite the tablet mania now sweeping the market there will be only a few survivors a year from now. Pricing and features will be determinative of success. 

In addition to all the new Android (Honeycomb) tablets there were many new Android handsets introduced -- at least 10. Despite all this the iPhone 4 was awarded "best mobile device" at the show.

Apple and the iPhone:

Apple wasn't at the MWC of course but it strategically leaked information to the Wall Street Journal about the iPhone 5, a potential iPhone nano, MobileMe changes and other developments. For that reason this week has been full of talk about Apple devices. In addition Apple announced its content subscription plan for the iTunes store, which was followed the next day by a more publisher-friendly plan from Google

As mentioned the iPhone 4 was awarded "best mobile device" at the show.

Wholesale Application Community (WAC):

Global mobile carriers announced the formal launch of the Wholesale Application Community (WAC). Participants include ATT, Sprint, China Mobile, MTS, Orange, Smart, Telefónica, Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone. Hardware OEMs Huawei, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and ZTE are also involved.

The idea is to create a developer ecosystem and apps platform of massive scale that carriers can leverage to give them independence from the iPhone and Android app stores. Despite all this participation the outlook for success of this effort is mixed at best. Apps may be developed that get pre-installed on handsets but there's a much smaller chance of success in the direct-to-consumer market.