If you're in the media business, there are two kinds of trends you should look out for at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC): those that will change the world of entertainment and those that will change the world of the consumer. If you're not thinking about both already, take this chance to start.
The intersection of media and mobility will be of greater debate at this year's MWC than ever before. Here are our three key trends:
A turning point for mobile video. Netflix, big media brands, and other providers of online video services will call for new modes of collaboration with mobile operators that will change how content is packaged, consumed, and monetized.
Toward a video-grade Internet. Vendors will reveal technologies aimed at improving the quality and economics of delivering live streams, 4K ultra-high definition (UHD), virtual reality (VR), and other forms of video-to-mobile devices that will redraw roles of operators, CDN providers, and Internet platforms in the delivery of content.
Virtual reality evolution, not revolution. Expect moderate progress with more transformative forms of media, as device manufacturers unveil a second wave of VR headsets that improve on last year's largely mediocre devices and various parties seek to copy Pokémon Go's success with augmented reality.
MWC will also be a showcase for consumer technologies that impact consumers in more far-reaching ways, related to these themes:
The rise of chat apps as platforms. Expect plenty of discussion about how social apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Snapchat are extending their role beyond person-to-person communication to multiple aspects of consumers' lives, including their sources of entertainment.
The smart home becomes reality. The noise about smart energy, smart security, and other "conventional" smart home services will obscure the bigger picture: the battle to control the home. This is a big deal for media companies, given that the home is the one place where most people spend most of their time and consume the most premium content.
Artificial intelligence will be everywhere. Digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant will play a central role in this battle, using devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home as a launchpad to permeate other parts of the consumers' world, such as their hi-fi systems, TVs, and cars.
The ways in which these technologies enhance, automate, and generally "augment" the lives of consumers will raise some huge questions for media companies, such as
What will be the impact on conventional media as chat apps transform consumers' ability to create, share, and discover content?
How will smart home technologies like Amazon Echo and Alexa change how media is discovered, used, and monetized?
What happens when virtual agents like Google Assistant start making entertainment choices for your customers?
Don't expect to find all the answers at the MWC; these scenarios – and many, many others – will play out over several years. But if you don't ask, you might miss your chance to shape these crucial conversations.
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