3GSM – 3 days of Gastronomy, Socializing, and Mobile

I returned yesterday from over two weeks in Europe, culminating in a three day stay in Barcelona for 3GSM. As always, it was a great show.  Everyone in the mobile industry attends – over 55,000 people this year – so it’s a worthwhile event for the keynotes and panels, the tradeshow, and the social events.

Personally, I prefer the Barcelona location to Cannes, where the conference had occurred for many years.  Although I love France, 3GSM takes place just a few weeks after MIDEM, the big music conference of the year which also takes place in Cannes.  Going back so soon afterwards is a bit like Groundhog Day.  Barcelona is a better spot for other reasons though.  It’s a great city, with stunning architecture, much better conference facilities than Cannes and more to do outside the conference.  Cannes seems like a town past its prime, whereas Barcelona is clearly a city that’s been undergoing a renaissance over the past decade or so.  Naysayers long for the intimacy of 3GSM in Cannes, and it’s true that it’s logistically easier to see everyone while strolling the limited confines of La Croisette.  However, even at MIDEM, Cannes is relatively crowded.  It’s simply too small for the mobile industry.  Just do the math: global mobile revenues are about $600 billion whereas global music revenues are around $30 billion — 20 times bigger.  One completely unsubstantiated rumor I heard concerned me – that 3GSM may return over the next few years to Cannes.  Please, no!

The most talked about areas related to media were as expected – mobile advertising, mobile social networking, and, of course, the iPhone. 

On the mobile advertising front, I saw a number of the key players – Shaukat Shamim of Rhythm, Paul Palmieri of Millennial Media, and Patrick Parodi of Amobee.  Yahoo unveiled its launch of mobile display advertising platform in 19 countries. 

While I was there, CNN ran a spot on mobile social networking that featured execs from Facebook and other start ups.  If you want to read up on mobile social networking, I highly suggest reading the blog of my pal Shawn Conahan, CEO of Intercasting Corporation and former CEO of Moviso.

As far as iPhone buzz went, it seemed that everyone, most particularly rival device manufacturers were discussing the soon-to-be released device.  Most rival comments embraced Apple’s entrance, saying it would add even more credibility to the growing music phone sector.  However, beneath those comments must lie a certain amount of anxiety.  On Sunday, I got to play with the new Sony Ericsson Walkman W880i for the first time.  A good description of the device and the launch event is here.  I found the ultra-slim 3G phone (at the tiny width of a CD case) to have an elegant and intuitive UI and to be a very sexy device.  Sony Ericsson has been selling a ton of Walkman phones, particularly  in Europe and Asia, over the past couple of years.  I believe the W880i positions them extremely well in the music phone market – Apple or no Apple.

I gave a keynote regarding mobile media at the Government Mobile Forum, a private conference at 3GSM designed for national telecommunications minsters, regulators, and their delegations from around 45 countries.  Although I majored in government at college, I am hardly a regulatory expert.  So, I’m pleased they had me there solely in my capacity as a digital media guy.  Of course, I recounted the mobile music video story told to me by Chris Blackwell and described in my previous blog posting.  I also couldn’t resist showing an excellent Saturday Night Live skit of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone.

Besides not having enough time to meet all the mobile gurus at 3GSM, my one regret is that I didn’t eat at Cal Pep, reportedly the finest tapas restaurant in the city.  I had many excellent meals hosted by friends and their companies at top restaurants including Tragaluz, Via Veneto, and El Pelauet.  Barcelona is truly a gastronomic city.  Knowing that I am a tapas fanatic, several of my friends urged me to go to Cal Pep.  Here’s looking forward to next February and the continued residence of 3GSM in Barcelona!

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