Digesting MWC: The device is no longer the star

Mobile World Congress is pretty much done and dusted, and this year's show has been both interesting and dull.Dull because all the tablets look alike, and all the phones look alike, and there's not a huge amount of differentiation inside either — almost all ARM, almost all Android.

Mobile World Congress is pretty much done and dusted, and this year's show has been both interesting and dull.

Dull because all the tablets look alike, and all the phones look alike, and there's not a huge amount of differentiation inside either — almost all ARM, almost all Android. The WebOS devices have impressed, as has the tablet flavour of MeeGo, and Android is still looking good. LG's 3D stuff is gimmicky, but at least it gives them something a bit different.

No new Windows Phones, no new Nokias, but that's no surprise.

The exciting stuff has been more behind the scenes. Voice-over-LTE, NFC, mobile payments, embedded connectivity — all dry subjects, but the pace of innovation right now really is quite startling. This year's MWC has been extremely busy (much more so than last year), yet the roster of device releases has clearly taken a hit from last month's CES. It seems to matter less and less what specific phone you have (they all look the same anyway); all the action is in the platform and the ecosystem.

Thanks to Android's ubiquity, the smartphone really is becoming like the PC.

What will next year be like? I really really hope we'll be seeing more of WebOS — HP will have a tough time in the current environment, but their platform rocks and I suspect we'll be seeing a few Nokia Windows Phones too. Hopefully they won't be the first.

On that subject, there is much speculation as to which version of Windows Phone those handsets will use — possibly 8 and possibly some slightly forked version. Much of this comes from Steves Ballmer and Elop's reticence in mentioning the phrase "Windows Phone 7" at any point in the last week, but I suspect Microsoft is just finally (and sensibly) trying to get people talking about "Windows Phones" and not "Windows Phone 7 phones", which is at least better than "Windows Phone 7 Series phones".

Everything's in flux. These are shark-infested waters, and we probably won't be looking at quite as many swimmers in 2012. Hopefully three or more will stay strong. Competition is good, and keeps things ticking along. But I see no way anything will overtake Android.

Like it or not, it's the new Windows.

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