As an analyst who focuses on the future of communications and the implications for business, I will travel to Mobile World Congress (MWC) with several expectations:

  • There will be a greater focus on business solutions, not just hardware and software exhibits. OK, in many respects, this is probably more of a hope of mine than an expectation. MWC visitors will still encounter hall after hall of software and hardware. Still, I expect many exhibitors, including device players like Samsung, to show a growing awareness by focusing more on actual end user business needs, including a vertical perspective.
  • Consumerization as a focus area is just heating up. The information workforce is fragmenting. Information workers will increasingly expect to work in a flexible framework. Forrester’s research highlights significant differences in communication and collaboration behavior between age groups. Social media — the communication channel of choice for those now entering the workforce — brings big challenges for businesses in the areas of procurement, compliance, human resources, and IT. However, I expect these themes to be addressed mostly superficially at MWC.
  • The merger of big data, mobility, and cloud computing is recognised as a large business opportunity. Mobility by itself only scratches the surface of the opportunities in areas like customer interaction, go-to-market dynamics, charging, and product development, which are emerging in combination with big data and cloud computing. I expect providers like SAP to touch on several aspects of this trend. The momentum is supported by the trend toward software-defined networking.
  • Software-defined networking (SDN) will be a big theme for carriers. Of course, SDN increasingly matters to carriers as part of their network infrastructure migration. SDN will be an ongoing theme for carriers well beyond 2013. However, one should not underestimate the impact that SDN will have on businesses as well, as it also opens up opportunities for more intelligent and interactive customer engagement, for instance. However, I don’t expect SDN providers like Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia Siemens to discuss these SDN implications for businesses yet, but focus on the carrier perspective.
  • Device hype will give way to a growing interest in OTT services. Despite recent device launches, including BlackBerry’s Z10 and Microsoft’s Surface, I do not expect device hype to dominate Mobile World Congress 2013. Devices are nice, but let’s face it: Most people care about what they can do on their devices — i.e., apps — rather than the devices per se. Hence, I expect OTT services to play a bigger role at MWC than last year.
  • Overall, no single theme will dominate. Mobility has become extremely pervasive. Mobility is central to pretty much every business strategy. This raises an interesting question: Is the focus on “mobility” still relevant enough for MWC visitors with a business focus? Or are business visitors looking for support in adjusting their business models for a mobilized world?

Above all, I will be looking at the degree of real support that exhibitors offer businesses in terms of exploring the opportunities that mobility provides by transforming business processes and business models.

PS: I am sure that some of the frequent MWC visitors are somewhat uncertain about the event’s new venue. It will be interesting to see whether MWC’s new venue can retain that certain Barca spark that the old venue (below the National Art Museum of Catalonia) gave Mobile World Congress compared with other events and conferences. After all, context matters.