Guardian Mobile Business Summit 2011 #mbs2011

Yesterday I attended the Guardian Mobile Business Summit in London. As usual the Guardian events team were able to attract some excellent speakers including Ed Vaizey, the culture and communications minister, and Olaf Swantee, CEO of EverythingEverywhere. I’ve picked out a few highlights which caught my attention.

One recurrent theme during the day was around the need for next generation wireless spectrum – the 4G auction. Both Ed Vaizey and Olaf Swantee talked about their commitment to the auction and the subsequent delivery of 4G service, which is of course good to hear. Ed made a plea to the operators to put their differences aside and support the Ofcom auction process and Olaf stated that the UK is at risk of being left behind in the move to 4G. Olaf also made the point that the 200-300,000 not-spots in the UK could probably be fixed with 4G. However with the auction not scheduled until the latter part of next year and the inevitable time lapse before the mobile operators start to deliver service, the increasing use of mobile data means the UK faces a real risk of 3G capacity running out before 4G arrives. Only time will tell.

Warren East, CEO of ARM, discussed the next set of challenges for mobile devices; energy efficiency, security, higher bandwidth and seamless cloud experience. Energy efficiency is a massive challenge as improvements get eaten up by more demand. The ambition is to be as efficient at storing energy as nature! Cloud computing will help energy efficiency by moving processing & storage off the mobile device.

Rob Grimshaw, MD at, outlined the FT’s digital strategy and showed how successful the FT has been online, especially since the move from iOS app to HTML5. Having a unique position in the news market, as well as a top brand, must help the FT considerably with their strategy. He explained how the shift to mobile is happening faster than from print to digital and mobile users will overtake desktop users by 2014. 90% of FT users are already accessing the Internet on a mobile device and 45% of users are consuming the FT on a mobile device. The HTML5 web app now delivers more traffic than their iTunes app did. And why would the FT give 30% of revenue to iTunes when they can do subscriptions themselves?

Fabio Sergio, from Frog Design, discussed how we are awash in a sea of personal data, with so much more to come. He explained the four pillars that drive users’ behaviour in relation to personal data; trust, transparency, control and value. One interesting point Fabio made is that facial recognition software will make digital anonymity a thing of the past!  He also posed the question, what will be the new data cultures in the future and how will they impact trust, transparency & control?

My favourite comment of the day (from Ed Vaizey) – your mobile phone is your digital identity. This will become increasingly true, especially as we start to use our phone for more and more payments. Ed also discussed the government’s view on traffic shaping, with principles around not blocking for commercial purposes, consumer transparency and must not be detrimental to investment. His view on regulation is that it must not get in the way of mobile business and be technology and service neutral.

Rich Holdsworth, CEO of Wapple, put forward a robust case for HTML5 web apps instead of iOS apps. He made the point that the mobile web gives developers more control and reaches every device, with no app store between the developer and the consumer. Not sure I altogether agree with his view that apps are going the way of CD-ROMs!

One other point; top marks to the Guardian events team for picking a venue, not just with free WiFi but WiFi that actually works and doesn’t require navigating landing pages and logins.

With special thanks to Emily Dickson in the team for inviting me.

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