A tale of two conferences was the theme of busy online conversations in business tech this week, with the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona and the RSA Security conference in San Francisco providing plenty to discuss.
Not to be left out, Apple made headlines early in the week. Before the buzz surrounding Mobile World Congress could get too big, rumors sparked that Apple is looking to make sure the next iPhone does get a lot bigger. DigiTimes, which has a reputation for leaking plans from parts manufacturers, reportedly spoke with component suppliers who said the iPhone 5 will feature a 4-inch screen. The screen on previous iPhones were 3.5 inches, and a number of Android-based competitors cut into Apple’s market with screens ranging from 3.7 inches to 4.8 inches.
Speculation about iPhone sizes went both ways this week, with a separate Bloomberg report claiming Apple is working on a smaller, cheaper iPhone to target those in the market for less expensive smartphones. However, that report was later contradicted by the New York Times, which claimed Apple sources have said making the device cheaper is indeed a consideration, but no plans have been made for a smaller iPhone.
Apple relied on these rumors to remain relevant this week, as Google dominated the conversation at the Mobile World Congress event. A slew of Android-based tablets and smartphones were unveiled, while Google executive Eric Schmidt acted as keynote speaker. The Wall Street Journal said “the show belonged to Google.” The company even crafted 86 different pins featuring the Android logo in different poses and costumes, unleashing a clever marketing ploy and prompting the attending tech nerds to collect and wear them all.
Included among the manufacturers using the Mobile World Congress to introduce new Android devices were Samsung, Sony and HTC. Samsung rolled out the Galaxy S II and Sony introduced the mobile PlayStation smartphone officially known as the Xperia Play. HTC brought an end to months of speculation by finally introducing two official, Android-based Facebook phones – the ChaCha and the Salsa.
While Google gained supporters, it also incurred a number of enemies at the event. Research In Motion, Nokia and Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo all spoke out against Google’s disruptive impact on the mobile market. All three said Google has hamstrung mobile operators across the globe, and NTT DoCoMo president and CEO Ryuji Yamada said operators now run the risk of “being reduced to a dumb pipe” for Google services. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the current “structure of the industry is very much in flux.”
However, any controversy found at Mobile World was trumped by the threatening environment at the RSA Security conference. California-based security firm HBGary Federal voluntarily left the conference after sustaining repeated threats from the infamous hacking organization known as Anonymous.
The company had worked with the FBI on an investigation on Anonymous, and CEO Aaron Barr said in an interview with the Financial Times last week that he had obtained the identity of two members of Anonymous residing in the United States, as well as several living abroad. Barr was also set to present at RSA, where he was expected to unveil the identities and lay out a plan for putting a stop to Anonymous.
After Barr publicly claimed to know the identities of Anonymous members, HBGary Federal’s website was hacked and Anonymous continually published employee emails on different websites. Speaking in an interview with IDG News Service, Barr said he “was receiving death threats” before withdrawing from RSA.
Similar threats to the Anonymous group were widely discussed at RSA. General Keith Alexander, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency’s director, called for a nationwide collaboration on cyber security, and a clear definition of “cyber war.”
Others in the industry apparently recognized the opportunities that will emerge alongside the growing cyber security paranoia. HP, Intel, McAfee and Symantec all used the event to draw attention to new products, services and security initiatives.
These issues will likely impact the industry as the further develop. Keep listening, as the online conversation will only get louder.