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Mobile World Congress: Will the Windows ecosystem be relevant in Barcelona?

Jared Newman | Feb. 25, 2013
It's still an iPhone and Android world, but at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next Monday, expect Microsoft's Windows and Windows Phone platforms to show some intriguing signs of life.

With that in mind, a new PureView Windows Phone smartphone seems like a possibility. Rumors have claimed that the phone would have a huge megapixel count, allowing users to zoom and crop photos without sacrificing image quality--much like the PureView Symbian handset that debuted at last year's MWC. Analysts say the new tech could make a big splash at the show.

"If that does come to pass, that could be exciting, especially because there doesn't seem to be all that much news coming out of the show, at least in terms of what I know in advance," said Avi Greengart, a research director with Current Analysis.

Greengart notes that smartphone makers such as HTC, Samsung, and Blackberry have followed Apple's footsteps in holding their own press events for new smartphones, eschewing announcements at trade shows. This leaves room for a company like Nokia to fill the void.

Aside from a small number of potentially juicy announcements, the analysts I spoke with expect a focus on low-cost handsets, especially for emerging markets. This makes sense, considering that there's no new version of Windows Phone to leverage, and therefore no built-in support for 1080p screens, which are popping up in most high-end Android handsets now.

Microsoft's presence fades

Microsoft used to make its presence felt at MWC. Two years ago, CEO Steve Ballmer gave a keynote speech that included details on Windows Phone 7.5. Last year, the company held a press event to announce the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

This time around, Microsoft is scaling back. The company won't have an official booth like the one pictured below. It's also forgoing a keynote, and merely plans to meet with industry partners and update the press on recent announcements.

Some second-guessing of this strategy is inevitable. "Microsoft could have easily used this as an opportunity, not to announce, but more to set out what their vision is for Windows, and to keep hammering that same message again and again," said Chetan Sharma, a technology and strategy consultant. He thinks a keynote would have been helpful to drive home its multiscreen vision of computing. "To that extent, I think they've missed an opportunity," he said.

Avi Greengart with Current Analysis also thinks Microsoft could use a show like MWC to showcase Windows Phone and Windows apps, addressing the common complaint that Microsoft's ecosystems are lacking in software. "If they have partners who are creating Windows 8 apps that are unique, this would be a great place to highlight them," Greengart said.

Keep in mind, though, that the industry's major players are moving away from trade shows as a way to drum up people's attention. Google also plans to tone down its own presence at MWC, as it looks to build up the Nexus brand through separate events. And let's not forget that Google just announced its Chromebook Pixel on Thursday in an intimate event in San Francisco.


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