I am sure you've all been to parties and receptions at trade shows before, but I bet they were nothing like the parties at 3GSM. Companies spare no expense on these affairs. There are DJs, live bands, dancing, expensive food (the catered tapas here in Barcelona are second to none), cocktails, wine, champagne, models. You get the idea. To paraphrase Vince Vaughn's character in Wedding Crashers, "Class, class, class. Top class all the way."
So far, I have been to parties thrown by Sony Ericsson (Sunday), Telenor (Monday), Symbian (also Monday), and TwistBox (last night).
I know, it is a hard life. What can I say? 3GSM is a good gig if you can get it.
And just so you know, it's not all fun and games. The press room here has no food beyond cookies and Twix bars. And the lunch lines are far too long. One more thing, it is almost impossible to get a cab here at times, especially after the parties let out. This really is hard work, people. Trust me, I am a professional.
Anyway, back to the parties.
There's a good reason wireless companies spend so much money at 3GSM, and it goes beyond the industry's collective need for a good time. Unlike other trade shows, parties at this show play a big role -- some would argue the crucial role -- for the attendees to network and do business.
While I was making the rounds this week, I heard all kinds of gossip about the industry. I'll share some of it with you.
Just about everyone I spoke with said there were fewer parties at this year's show than in recent years. Most attributed the decline in the number of parties to a modest drop-off in the mobile content sector. Mobile content companies have thrown a lot of money at the wireless industry in the last few years and everyone seemed a little anxious that the money may be running out. Mini dot-com bubble? We'll have to wait and see.
Another topic among the party-goers is mobile banking. It seems that after eight years of modest experiments, mobile payments and mobile banking may finally take off. The GSMA (the global agency behind GSM wireless technology) has lined up a group of 14 carrier partners, led by South Korea's KTF, to push global mobile banking. More important, the GSMA has MasterCard and Visa onboard. In earlier years, mobile banking was a fight between the credit card companies and the carriers, stalling the development of the technology. But this time, it looks like both parties may finally be ready to make it work.
The third topic among party-goers was the convergence of smartphones with consumer cell phones. Now that smartphones are under $200, many high-end consumers are buying smartphones. Most of the handset people I spoke with told me they expect most of the world's handsets to be smartphones in a few years. This blurring of the lines between business and consumer wireless devices will have a big impact on the mobile enterprise market, making almost anyone a fully data-enabled mobile worker.
Well, I have a party to run off to. It's an early afternoon mixer for UIQ.
NOTE: I have been furiously taking pictures of the show here at 3GSM. Check out my 3GSM photo gallery.