Barcelona’s big mobile gadget show starts today

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Barcelona’s big mobile gadget show starts today

Korea’s top tech producers - Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics - will be flexing muscles with their latest devices, including the 8-inch Galaxy tablet PC and Optimus series smartphones, at the 2013 Mobile World Congress (MWC) organized by the Global System for Mobile communications Association (GSMA), to kick off today in Barcelona, Spain.

It is the mobile industry’s largest event.

Samsung is introducing its Galaxy Note 8.0, dubbed a competitor to Apple’s iPad Mini, at the four-day annual event. It released its first “phablet,” or phone and tablet hybrid, the Galaxy Note 10.1 at the MWC last year.

In TVs, Samsung is unveiling a TV Discovery service, which allows surfing and changing channels through mobile devices.

“Through an integrated remote control functions, the service allows users to change channels with a touch of a finger on their smart devices and personalize their TV channels,” said a spokesman for Samsung Electronics.

“The service will be mounted on the new smart TV products to be released in 2013,” he said. “In the case of smartphones, the service will be introduced sequentially starting from Korea, the U.S. and nine other European countries including England and France.”

As announced earlier, Samsung is not bringing the Galaxy S4, the follow-up to its flagship Galaxy S3 smartphone, to the MWC. The company has been holding its own separate events to release its flagship smartphones since the debut of the Galaxy S3 last year. Unconfirmed rumors say the event is scheduled for mid-March in New York.

LG Electronics is targeting the European market at the MWC by presenting a low-end LTE smartphone. It will compete with Chinese companies aiming at the world market through price competitiveness. LG’s new products include the Optimus F Series and Optimus L Series 2.

The Optimus F Series will be launched in Europe in the second quarter of this year. Optimus F5 has a 4.3-inch IPS display and a dual-core processor.

The Optimus L Series 2, which has three different types of devices, has a dual SIM feature. With the dual SIM users can have two different phone numbers with one device, using it as a personal phone and a business phone at the same time.

Korea’s two largest mobile carriers - SK Telecom and KT - will also participate in the event to showcase and demonstrate their LTE-related technologies.

Another milestone at the MWC 2013 will be the emergence of new mobile platforms. In the current market, more than 90 percent of smartphones run on either Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system.

There will be a host of new operating systems introduced. Samsung will hold a release event of Tizen 2.0, a mobile platform it has jointly developed with Intel, on the second day of the exhibition. Tizen was first released on Wednesday through Samsung’s official Web site. Along with Tizen, Samsung is planning to release AllShare, which knits together Samsung electronic devices. Through AllShare, contents in Samsung devices such as PCs, tablets, smartphones, TVs and cameras can be shared through a Samsung account.

In addition, other new mobile operating systems such as Blackberry 10, Canonical’s Ubuntu and Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox will be made available to the public.

But visitors to Barcelona expecting the annual event’s grand product launches, free refreshments and lavish parties should lower their expectations.

Europe’s telecoms and gear makers, which typically dominate the show, are cutting back in a more austere time . Free snacks are being eliminated and Vodafone Group and Nokia Siemens Networks are focusing on business meetings rather than putting on a show.

The change offers room to Asian and U.S. competitors to boost their visibility in a move that reflects the industry’s shift. As European technology companies lay off workers and sell assets, China’s Huawei Technologies and Qualcomm in the U.S. are reporting rising revenues and profits fueled by increasing smartphone and tablet demand.

“What we see at the event matches the trends we have in the industry,” said Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer of mobile carriers’ association and congress organizer GSMA. “Europe is the flatter piece of the equation.”

Huawei, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics are taking up the most space this year, together with European exception Ericsson. Their growing presence has bumped Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens off the podium after years of leading the show, O’Hara said.

Organizers expect 70,000 attendees, up from 60,000 last year, underscoring the opportunity to meet potential clients, partners and investors. How much companies spend to make an impact will mostly depend on the space they rent, how many executives they fly in, local advertising and, for some, on food, drink and props. Last year, the event generated more than 300 million euros ($395 million) for Barcelona.

By Lee Ji-sang, Bloomberg []

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