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At Mobile World Congress, gear to phone home about

February 16, 2009|Alana Semuels

Get ready for a week of phone porn. The Mobile World Congress, the cellphone industry's version of the Consumer Electronics Show, kicks off in Barcelona, Spain, today.

Thousands of mobile-industry professionals will converge on the city to show off new gear, announce previously secret products and try to convince one another that the sector will weather the economic downturn.

Research group Strategy Analytics predicted last month that the global mobile phone market would shrink 9% in 2009.

There's a lot for the casual phone nerd to be excited about, including solar-powered phones, a Nokia applications store and Opera Turbo, which, sadly, is not an opera performed on motorbikes but a mobile Web browser.

In case you aren't traveling to Barcelona, here are some things to look out for from the comfort of your home:

Today, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will introduce the company's mobile strategy to the crowd (hopefully his presentation will not contain mosquitoes like Bill Gates' at the TED Conference did). Ballmer is expected to unveil an app store for Microsoft-powered handsets -- the iPhone App Store's success has everyone scrambling to catch up.

He's also expected to unveil a service called My Phone that allows people to sync their photos, contacts, videos and other files to a personalized website they can access from anywhere. And analysts predict a glimpse at Windows Mobile 6.5, an updated version of the company's operating system for handsets.

Nokia is expected to unveil its own app store at the conference. The Finnish company may also show off a new model of its E75 phone, which has a slide-out full keyboard and will go on sale for 390 pounds (about $565) in Britain next month.

Garmin will allow attendees to play with its Nuviphone, a phone that uses the Cayman Islands company's GPS technology to help people figure out where they're going. Samsung Electronics Co. will unveil a gadgety phone, the Memoir, which has an 8-megapixel camera and the endorsement of Danish model-photographer Helena Christensen.

Adobe Systems Inc. says it will make announcements about its Flash animation and video software for mobile phones, although the much-anticipated Flash Player for iPhones isn't quite ready.

Samsung and LG are expected to show handsets that can be recharged by sunlight. Expect too the new browser from Opera, which is trying to make mobile Web surfing faster.

The rapidly growing field of mobile advertising will probably be front and center this week as well.

Quattro Wireless, a Waltham, Mass., company, will make an announcement about its ad network for cellphones, and other young players also will enter the field.

The big mysteries of the week: Will Dell Inc. introduce a smart phone at the conference? Will BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. have anything new to say?

Is Samsung really delaying the release of its phone that runs Android, Google Inc.'s mobile operating system? Palm Inc. hopes so; its shares jumped to a 52-week high last week in the hopes that the Android would stay away, if just for a little while.


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