February 16, 2009, 5:31 PM — The Mobile World Congress is in full swing in sunny Barcelona, and it looks like quite a few people are playing catch-up with a certain Apple-branded handset that is doing quite well in the smartphone market. Microsoft, for instance, unleashed version 6.5 of Windows Mobile, with at least one screen that looks suspiciously like the iPhone interface. Redmond has already convinced LG to partner with them on the new OS. And since everyone wants a cash cow to rival the App Store, everyone's launching their own App Store. Microsoft, Nokia, Orange, and O2 were among the companies announcing that at the expo -- never mind the fact that such agendas might conflict with one another. (How do consumers react to competing mobile application markets provided by their wireless carrier, their handset manufacturer, and the company that makes the OS that runs on their handset? How do those three companies simultaneously work in concert to make the phone operate properly and also compete with each other for app store dollars?)
One company that was almost entirely absent from the trade show was Google, whose Android mobile operating system, launched with such fanfare as an iPhone killer, has lagged in actual real-world presence. But one of the other major handset players was also absent -- and that, of course, was Apple. It's as if the maker of the hottest smartphone operates in some sort of parallel universe; indeed, the NY Times article about LG and Microsoft that I linked to above barely mentions the iPhone. Part of that is that, as I noted last week, is thata Apple doesn't get into complicated strategies with handset manufacturers and carriers; it offers one simple product on its own terms, and stays aloof from the simultaneous cooperate-and-compete situation that other handset and OS providers find themselves in. And that means no trade shows.