- 16 Feb 09, 16:18 GMT
Two years ago all the talk at the Mobile World Congress was of the imminent arrival of the Apple iPhone, and how it was going to change the industry. One year ago, all the talk was of Google's open-source Android operating system, and what a radical impact that might have. In each case, the big established players blew a collective raspberry at the thought that these upstarts would rock their world - so how much has changed?
However often it is pointed out that the iPhone has only a tiny fraction of world handset sales, a walk around the halls here provides plenty of evidence of its influence. Touchscreen phones are everywhere - and although early versions appeared pale imitations, some of them now look as good as the original, and have a lot more firepower.
A case in point is Nokia's N97, a touchscreen phone with a very neat slide-out keyboard. When I went to interview Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki, we had a photographic face-off - his N97 versus my iPhone (I have brought a Nokia N95 and a Blackberry with me too, by the way). He was the clear winner, and the phone, which hits the shops in the summer, looks pretty good, as you can see here in my picture of him taken with my iPhone. Just below, is his photo of me with the iPhone. What I couldn't tell was just how much Nokia has improved the software on the phone to make it more intuitive.
And it's on software that Apple has really made a big impact. Ever tried to get onto the web with an N95? I found it too much of a struggle to bother, with this or other phones, and the statistics show that it was only the arrival of the iPhone which encouraged many users to see their phones as surfing devices.
Would we have seen the launch of phone application stores by both Nokia and Microsoft today if Apple's Apps Store hadn't shown there was a latent demand for useful, wacky or even totally pointless things to do on your mobile?
But what about Google? This show got underway with just one Android device - T-Mobile's G1 - on the market. As I arrived this morning, I saw a picture on the front of the show magazine of a new Android handset made by Huawei. I rushed to the firm's stand - and was turned away. But returning a couple of hours later I found the new Android behind a glass screen - it appeared to be a non-working prototype looking rather similar to, you've guessed it, the iPhone.
When I caught up with Google's mobile chief Hugo Barra, I asked him whether he was disappointed that Android hadn't yet taken over the world. He insisted that the hundreds of applications now being built for the new operating system proved that it was going to be very popular with all sorts of manufacturers - but pointed out that as it was an open-source system, he'd be the last to know what was in the pipeline because nobody needed to tell Google.
I am hearing rumours that a major operator will unveil its own Android handset on Tuesday - but it does seem that it's still too early to judge whether Google really has changed the rules of the game for this industry. Whereas Apple, with its very far from open operating system, seems to have everyone dancing to its tune.
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