The Mobile World Congress 2012 Buzz Index! #mwc12

It gives us great pleasure to present the 2012 Buzz Index as compiled at last week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) exhibition and conference in Barcelona.

I hear you ask “What’s the Buzz Index?”  I am glad you asked!  Let me explain.  Every year since 2007 we have been measuring what the biggest buzzwords are at MWC, which give a great indication as to what’s hot and what’s not in the mobile and connected devices worlds.  To be more specific, we only focus on the buzz surrounding apps and mobile content and we avoid backhaul, base stations and batteries.

Before diving into this year’s index, I thought I would dig out the inaugural one from 2007 to see how things have changed, and here it is …

NOTE: THIS LIST IS THE OLD 2007 BUZZ INDEX (starting with the biggest buzz item). THE 2012 BUZZ INDEX IS COMING LATER IN THE ARTICLE!

1.                  All things video (including mobile TV, video calling, movies on demand, and all things moving on your mobile phone screen):  9.6% of the 3GSM buzz.  This is significantly up on 2006, indeed “mobile TV” was the buzz of 3GSM 2007.

2.                  Handset management, provisioning, security, spam and virus protection, DRM, OTA and FOTA and sync solutions:9.4% of the 3GSM buzz.  This is a sure indication that phones are becoming like PCs, and they will need all the PC software that we are familiar with including virus protection, updates, content protection, configuration and OTA management.  This is a significant increase on 2006, fueled mainly by lots of new companies focusing on helping us manage our mobile lives and … making our phones into our PCs.

3.                  Messaging and mobile communities (the oldest and longest surviving category, recently expanded to embrace the hot new mobile community world, and which generally involves anything to do with passing messages between mobile users):9.3% of the 3GSM buzz.  Although SMS and MMS have been around for years, the messaging sector has recently been re-invigorated by push email, Instant Messaging and mobile communities, and the reason this category is so high is that messaging is still driving so much of the traffic growth between subscribers.

4.                  Mobile advertising, marketing and search8.3% of the 3GSM buzz.  This is an indication that there’s a lot of smart money chasing that dream, the dream of being able to effectively advertise and market to the captive mobile audience. This is significantly higher up the chart than 2006.

5.                  Rich downloadable content (i.e. downloading stuff to your phone, the companies that facilitate that, and the good old classics including games and ringtones): 8.2% of the 3GSM buzz.  Not only is the content market alive and well, but it is thriving as network technologies enable people to download more, and because there is an entire ecosystem of companies creating great mobile content.

6.                  M-payment (the whole ecosystem focusing on how to replace your cash and credit card with your mobile phone): 4.1% of the 3GSM buzz.  Led by some progressive operators and some exciting handset and network technologies, I predict that this topic will be number 1 in 2008 in terms of buzz.

7.                  Location-based services:  3.7% of the 3GSM buzz.  This has been consistent for a few years now; I was surprised to see this so low down in the list, because I really expected more buzz from LBS this year, especially as it is coming of age, but I think next year will see this category climb higher.

8.                  Internet (i.e. anything related to good old-fashioned browsing of the general internet and using or accessing portals to access internet content).  3.6% of the 3GSM buzz.  A few years ago, this would have been number 1, when operators first started rolling out IP services, but now it is taken for granted.  However 2006 has seen the rise of the ODP, the On Device Portal, which is the next logical evolution of internet content on your handset.

9.                  Convergence (now this really is a buzzword, but as the world moves to all-IP networks, and as voice becomes increasingly voice-over-IP (VoIP), convergence is a necessity because end-users and enterprises will expect all of their services on a common platform using common hardware).  2.3% of the 3GSM buzz.  I predict that in a year or two, it won’t be necessary to talk about “convergence” at all because it will be taken for granted, just as GPRS is today.

10.             All things audio (i.e. music downloading and streaming):  2.0% of the 3GSM buzz.  With all of those MP3 phones, and several new innovative music download and streaming services, I was expecting this to have generated more buzz and hype, but this year it seems that music was definitely displaced by mobile TV.

You will notice that the word “app” wasn’t even mentioned.  That’s right, mobile apps are such a recent phenomenon and they have certainly transformed the industry as we know it.  I would love your thoughts on that 2007 list and how things have changed in just 5 years.

Anyway, on to the brand new 2012 Buzz Index.  Here goes, starting with the BIGGEST BUZZ …

1. HTML5 and web apps.  As publishers continue to try and break the Apple app 30% strangehold on their revenues by launching their content in the browser, and as more and more companies announce HTML5 app strategies (such as Mozilla), HTML5 and the rise of the web app was the hottest topic this year.  The reason HTML5 is number 1 is that it truly is a buzzword, but it’s one that will give rise to whole new value chains and business models.

2. Everything apps.  There was an entire hall dedicated to apps, called App Planet, and almost every company at the show either had  apps of their own, or distributed apps, or leveraged apps in their business.  Yes it’s a far cry from 2007 when the word wasn’t even on the horizon, let alone having a “planet” all of its own.  The challenges facing many in the app game right now are exposure, discovery, merchandising, reach, distribution and monetization … read on.

3. Payments, NFC and m-commerce.  And mobile advertising. As with any maturing market, everyone is saying the word “monetization” and there are plenty of companies offering to help, with everything from carrier billing to micro-payments to NFC to full mobile commerce solutions.  I decided (rightly or wrongly) to put mobile advertising in this same category, because the focus at MWC 2012 was on how advertising has become just one of the many aspects of a monetization strategy, so that for most app developers it’s in the mix alongside in-app payment and other revenue models.  Making money from mobile was big this year.

4. Smart TV and Connected Car.  While it’s not strictly fair to lump these together, they have a few things in common.  They are both markets ripe for the next wave of innovation, they have historically been proprietary embedded systems that are now moving towards open platforms and apps, and many companies are chasing both of them because they feel the mobile market has reached saturation in terms of innovation.  One piece of advice … don’t try to watch your smart TV while driving your connected car.

5. M2M (machine to machine communications) / The Internet Of Things.  While this has been around for years, it is finally coming of age, because of low cost devices and the need for everything to be ubiquitously connected at all times (from fridges to frigid temperature monitors, from black boxes to white goods, etc.).  Once upon a time these M2M devices had embedded software, now they download apps (just like the rest of us, so they don’t feel left out).  Apps for M2M … watch this space.

6. Devices devices devices.  For many years MWC has been the place where manufacturers launch their wild and wacky new devices, but in the past many of them were just different form factors of mobile phones.  This year we saw the continued divergence into tablets, e-book readers, cloud based computers, media devices, cameras, and in the case of Samsung with their “Note” tablet – as a way of replacing the good old paper and pen at last.  As networks become homogenized (4G is 4G after all), the next wave of differentiation will come from the device OEMs, particularly the Asian OEMs such as ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo who are creating some great new products.

7. Content.  While this may seem like an obvious one, what is happening now is that all the major content providers (whether that’s Netflix or the Financial Times) are going “over the top” direct to their customers, using the network and device only as a conduit.  At MWC 2012 there was a big rise in attendance and exhibiting by non-mobile content companies who see mobile as the way to reach their audiences.  I did also want to put “over the top” in the buzzword index, because I heard it everywhere I went during the week, but I thought I would refer to it as content instead.

8. Mobile cloud.  A couple of years ago Google led the way with their cloud-based approach to email, documents and content, but now everyone is jumping on that bandwagon – the bandwagon of “all of our software, services and content are in the cloud”.  I would say that most new innovative services I saw launched this year are cloud-based, and are therefore either accessible via the browser or some lightweight app.  Music services are a great example, such as Cricket’s Muve, which nicely blends millions of songs in the cloud with a truly personal experience through the Cricket handset and client app.

9. Privacy.  Privacy is the elephant in the room.  Everyone knows that the mobile operating systems glean just a bit too much info about their users, and that many apps send just a bit too much data back to the servers, and that users are getting twitchy about all those Facebook sign-ons that they give permission to.  However it has never been too openly discussed at MWC until this year, when several companies played very hard on the fact that they are private and secure and unobtrusive.  With the privacy backlash about to get louder (particularly in the US in 2012), companies that want to make buzz around this have another bandwagon to jump on.

10. Last, but by no means least … Mobile enterprise.  A lot of money has sloshed into companies that claim they can mobilize the enterprise, with solutions ranging from app showcasing, app distribution, device management, security, policy management, app-ifying existing back-end systems, and enterprise app development.  However at MWC there weren’t as many really good case studies of all this in action as I was expecting, so that tells me that “mobile enterprise” has another year or two left of hype and buzz before it becomes really mainstream.  Where will “mobile enterprise” be in next year’s Buzz Index?

We would love your thoughts.  Add a comment below.

What we are pleased about here at App Carousel is that our solution is perfect timing into the market, just at that time when monetization and marketing of apps is key to success, and when that next generation of devices need apps and app stores that showcase their power and features.

Here’s to MWC 2013 and all the buzz inbetween.

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