MWC Cutting Room: The fun of the fair – has gone for some

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This new manufacturer policy of pre-announcing handsets with little real detail ahead of full confirmation is frustrating to us, and could well have a serious impact on the future of big trade shows.

It might help bloggers find a new article to post every 30 minutes, no matter how ‘fact-lite’ the story might be, but it runs the risk of making Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2010 less of a manufacturer’s event, like the industry is less a straight showcase of airtime and hardware now.

What in the way of handsets will we not know of on its close on Thursday (February 19) that we won’t already know, with some minor digging, by the Sunday night before it kicks off?

Neither Nokia or LG are actually showing at MWC at all, even if delegates from both will do business at the event and the pair will set up for three days in its environs to make their statements to the press separately.

LG is a platinum sponsor, but it will have announced its major releases a day before opening. Sony Ericsson is holding its press event the same night. Nokia talks to the press on the Tuesday, off site.

It is a kick in the teeth to the GSM Association (GSMA) when such major brands appear, in a sense, to be boycotting MWC, or at least fearing that their news will be drowned in the noise of the Fira.

The industry has opened up, in the main because of new brand rivals Apple, Research in Motion (RIM) and Google. The GSMA has, with RIM, set up a standalone App World fair in Hall 7, which will draw thousands of excitable developers. It is the action centre in this market right now – the new entrepreneurialism is in applications, not in foreign marauding as it was five years ago, or sales as it was a decade ago.

And so, most of HTC’s 2010 roadmap was leaked at the end of 2009. Nothing new will likely be showed off by it this week. Last week, at press, Koreans Samsung and LG appeared to be engaged in some absurd local p*ssing contest, played out in journalists’ inboxes.

For as soon as Samsung issued a pre-MWC release about its Monte touchscreen, LG stuck out scant detail of new Cookie social networking variants (which read like Genio rip-offs, themselves Cookie copycats in the first place).

It is like when that major Korean delegation landed at Heathrow some years back, to be escorted along certain A roads and M roads that featured a run of local billboards bearing their signage, and little else, like all the UK had been turned over to Samsung and LG.

It’s a private war between the pair, and something we’ll never properly understand.

If you ever get bored of following Government and large corporate conspiracy theories, there’s always the one that says LG and Samsung are in fact one and the same company…

Search various online blogs, including one generally reliable East European rumour merchant, and most of the other MWC detail is there: Nokia’s affordable ‘Cseries’ range, the HTC ‘Legend’ (the follow-up to the Hero) and ‘Bravo’ (a variant of the HD2 with Android), the Sony Ericsson Vivaz with slide-out keyboard and a cheaper Android to take on the likes of the HTC Tattoo or LG’s InTouch Max.

The danger for the GSMA is that MWC goes the way of the UK Motor Show; or the way CeBIT suddenly fell out of favour with both exhibitors and attendees.

Punters and car makers complained the UK motor industry was being too greedy, making it more cost effective to attend the Geneva Motor Show than stay in the UK.

Similarly, CeBIT lost some of its glamour when the networks exited, in the process centralising European mobile affairs at MWC – although, CeBIT is now the essential event for the mobile sales and distribution channel and import/export market consequently.

Barcelona was supposed to free MWC of some of the claustrophobia of Cannes, its former staging ground, but it is controlled by the GSMA in the way analyst and events company Informa used to run Cannes and the first Barcelona shows. It block books hotels and venues, leaving manufacturers to begrudge the marked-up fees for floorspace and bedrooms across the city.

When the economy was booming, nobody did anything more than moan. Now there’s a genuine PR ‘win’ by being seen to not throw the cash around unnecessarily.

With application developers and internet brands taking attention on the showfloor, what financial sense does it make to lavish huge sums and still not gain the required coverage?

Better to steer clear, leak concrete rumours to bloggers weeks ahead of time, a sneak ‘preview’ the week before, and the full release just before the show itself. That’s triple the coverage for a fraction of the price. Mind you, it fails miserably when everyone starts to do it.

Perhaps this year, the one company that didn’t try to be clever will actually steal all the headlines.

 

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