The 2011 Mobile World Congress hasn't even started yet, but the mobile industry is rocking with major changes and rumors.
Microsoft Partners With Nokia
The unsurprising news hit yesterday that in-the-doldrums mobile maker Nokia (news, site) is partnering with Microsoft (news, site) to offer an upcoming army of Windows Phone 7, and presumably Windows Phone 8, devices in the near future. There was no word on when or what models wil lead this vanguard and it's unlikely anything will be unveiled at MWC.
This partnership solves Nokia's problem of not having a viable OS in the marketplace, as discussed in a leaked memo by CEO Stephen Elop earlier in the week and Microsoft's trouble with having to play catch-up and second-fiddle to Android models from the same set of phone makers. Microsoft is apparently investing heavily in Nokia to get the deal going.
Out-of-favor Symbian will be franchised to other phone makers, so will continue to be supported, while Nokia can use non-Microsoft OSs in its tablets and other devices. The deal will mean job losses at Nokia and presumably dent the pride of the Finnish company, but with survival at stake, this has to be seen as an inevitable move. Will two mobile strugglers make a success in a violently competitive market? That remains to be seen.
Will Apple Go Small?
After all that, there was barely a pause before a report sprung up from Bloomberg that Apple will launch an iPhone mini- or nano- device. The thinking behind this is that Apple is now pushing the upper reaches of the premium market with the iPhone and, as it did with the iPod, is looking to drop into the mid-market.
This will help it tackle the threat from Android, which is racking up massive sales with midrange phones from a wide range of makers. This device could come with no physical home button (or one tucked on the side) to maximize screen space, and a combo antenna chip to work on both GSM and CDMA networks. That would enable it to be sold SIM-free so it can be sold widely and function on any network.
With Apple's design department already busy on the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 (and iPad 3 -- if other rumors are to be believed) this device -- if it launches at all -- may not hit the market for some time yet, but will help Apple compete in another segment of the market, and we saw how well the baby iPods did.
Yahoo Does a Flipboard
Finally, and picking a spectacularly bad day to release some solid news, Yahoo (news, site) announced a mobile platform of its own to compete with the indy app Flipboard. Flipboard lets users view information and news from a number of sources on the same page of your iPad. Take this as a sign of things to come with every media company and portal player all trying to create their own newsstands for tablets.
Yahoo's version, Livestand, is rather like a digital magazine shelf, allowing you access to a range of content on an iPad (with Android 3.0-tablet support to follow). While this isn't in quite the same league or market as News Corp's The Daily, it helps give Yahoo some relevance in the tablet space and will help Yahoo build content deals with third parties, as well as bring users back to Yahoo pages.
All this news leaves MWC in Barcelona with rather a lot to do to impress the audience. New models will be on display, including Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play where games console meets Android phone (see the Superbowl ad here), new tablets and more.