Mobile World Congress: Network operators have big plans for platforms

Last year it was apps; this year platforms dominated the opening days of the 2010 Mobile World Congress.

Last year it was apps; this year platforms dominated the opening days of the 2010 Mobile World Congress.

There were no less than four platform announcements on the opening day.

First it was revealed that a consortium of 24 mobile network operators (MNOs) plan to establish a "wholesale applications community" to combine the present "fragmented" mobile application development landscape.

The deal, which may produce tangible results in a year, is to defend the market position of MNOs against content aggregators such as Apple, Google and Nokia's Ovi Store, which threaten to turn MNOs into "mere conduits" of commodity-priced bit-flows.

Next, Vodafone, Verizon Wireless and nPhase, a Verizon Wireless/Qualcomm joint venture, said they would work together to accelerate the adoption of global machine-to-machine (M2M) deployments by simplifying the remote management and monitoring of devices spread across both European and US networks.

The big prize here is to run the national networks essential to the roll-out of smart energy meter projects. Remote monitoring for healthcare, traffic management and even intelligent networked appliances such as "the web-connected refrigerator" could be lucrative new markets too.

Third, Intel and Nokia announced they would merge their Moblin and Maemo software projects to create MeeGo, a unified Linux-based platform that will run on pocketable mobile computers, netbooks, tablets, media-rich smartphones, connected TVs and in-vehicle "infotainment" systems, ideally but not exclusively all based on Intel's Atom microprocessor.

This promises to be the West's answer to LiMo, the Linux Mobile initiative that has drawn support from Asia-Pacific handset makers.

And mobile chip makers ST-Ericsson and STMicroelectronics said they would support Adobe's the Open Screen Project to run Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR on smartphones and connected digital-home devices to better support video and multimedia on smartphones.

Despite the announcements, software developers are likely to remain focused on Android, iPhone and Symbian for consumer applications, and on Symbian and Research in Motion's BlackBerry platform for enterprise and business applications, at least in the short term. This is where they have critical masses of potential consumers.

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