3GSM Diary: Homeward bound, creative types and killer apps

Day 5

Day 5

Where to begin? Another way of saying 'day 5' is to say Thursday, the day when many people leave the 3GSM Congress, including me. A last shot past the Fira in Barcelona, which has housed the show across multiple sites, shows the footfall much lower than at the start of the week.

And on a packed flight back to London, I'm no longer overhearing eager gossiping but feel a plane packed full of tired people from all parts of the mobile industry - and beyond.

I add those last two words because it has been encouraging to see all the people from areas regularly tarred with brushes marked 'content' or 'creative'. In many cases, mass market technologies are already in the mobile industry - it's just that there is nothing to connect with consumers.

A panel on Wednesday, right after Craig David's performance, featured executives from MTV, Freemantle Media and Endemol. They all made strong contributions.

Jason Hirschhorn, chief digital officer at MTV Networks, as you might expect from that channel, talked a lot about three-to-five minute chunks of content over mobile. He said such "virtual snacking" is "working very well" for MTV.

He also, by the by, talked about "pimped up content". A few eyebrows were raised. "I mean that in the best sense of 'pimp'," he quickly added - as in MTV's Pimp My Ride show, then.

Gary Carter, chief creative officer at X-Factor makers Freemantle Media, was impassioned about interactivity and called for greater co-operation.

"If we don't share collaboratively in the making of new entertainment, we will all fail," he said.

And in one of the liveliest 10 minutes of the entire show, another chief creative type - Peter Bazalgette from Endemol - related everything to sex. Besides that, he also spoke a lot of sense, although a wry smile crossed my face as he used Deal, No Deal as an example of audience interaction and gaming over mobile.

He made a plea for more R&D in the sector. He said: "Some of TV's killer apps took 50 years."

Which was a sobering thought, I'm sure, for many of the assembled telco execs looking to make returns on their investments before the decade's end.

As you'll no doubt have heard, mobile television was one of the stories of the event. Virgin Mobile, along with good buddies BT, Microsoft and others, have beaten everyone to the punch, at least in the UK, opting for a technology that many think will run third or even fourth behind better funded alternatives such as DVB-H and MediaFLO.

Will mobile TV fly, where previous great white hopes such as MMS, push-to-talk and mobile music (so far) haven't? Quite possibly it'll do well. We all are, after all, very familiar with TV as a medium.

Funnily enough, in general mobile TV doesn't make use of 3G spectrum or technologies - unless, of course, as an operator you plump for a solution such as IP Wireless'. This is exactly what Orange have done and CEO Sanjiv Ahuja's speech on Thursday morning detailing a Bristol-based trial of TDtv shows why it's worth trying to stick around as long as possible.

One set of companies chomping at the bit right now are those with high-end chips. Advances in camera technology and wireless data mean that processing bits and bytes on phones is critical. I caught up with higher-ups from Micron Technologies, for example, who years ago were focused on the PC industry. I said to them: We've heard about mobile TV. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves but one day how about phone as PVR, with gigabytes of onboard storage? Their eyes lit up.

On the enterprise side of mobility, I have to say I didn't see too much that wowed me. While last year HSDPA (I won't spell it out but many of you will know it's essentially an upgrade to W-CDMA 3G, sometimes known as 3.5G or super 3G) was a theme of 3GSM, this year equipment companies have quietly got on with bringing out products, for example embedded in laptops or even a handset, in Samsung's case.

I missed RIM co-CEO and chairman Jim Balsillie speak on Tuesday morning, which is a shame because he is always good value and BlackBerry and BlackBerry-like solutions speak directly to most silicon.com readers.

I won't point fingers but, while moving to the unrestricted streets of Barcelona has meant 3GSM can grow, I am not alone in saying it wasn't always exactly easy to get around or know where to find different briefings. Tuesday morning and lunchtime, in particular, were hectic.

But the lasting impression for me - and forgive any repetition on my part - was of what's going on outside the markets we hear about all the time. It's a statement not just about the so-called Bric nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China - go on, you work out their combined population) but all the less-talked-about parts of the world, where mobile - often the means for the first telephone call people have made - is touching people's lives.

Researchers at Yankee Group also identify eastern Europe and Africa as driving mobile market revenue over the next five years, so this is about cold business as much as social change.

Cracking the Chinese market is an understandable concern for many of the technology vendors that attend 3GSM. But mobility is certainly about more than China or the rich west and that's something I'm always happy to hear about.

Until next year...

Read more of the 3GSM Diary: