Mobile World Congress: A Reporter's Notebook

From Steve Ballmer's blurry face on an LG watch phone to a new Windows Mobile and the Docomo mushrooms, here's a collection of highlights and weird stuff seen at the world's largest wireless telecomm show.

A Wireless Wonderland

There's more to the world's largest wireless telecommunications show than handsets, handsets, handsets. Here's a collection of snapshots, notes and observations gathered during my three days of nonstop news conferences and wanderings through the sprawling FIRA expo site in Barcelona, Spain.

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Where's Android?

Much of the talk at MWC was about something we didn't see. An expected plethora of new handsets based on Google's Android OS never materialized. HTC's display of its own branded Android prototype didn't impress many since it looked a lot like the only existing Android phone, the HTC-designed T-Mobile G1. And the non-functioning iPhone clone labeled Android at Chinese telecom giant Huawei's booth (shown here) seemed to symbolize the Android fizzle. Vendors such as Samsung still say they're working on an Android phone, however--maybe they'll turn up in April, at CTIA in Las Vegas?

Microsoft's New Windows (Mobile) Phone OS

If Android was MIA, Microsoft was very much on hand. CEO Steve Ballmer gave a keynote and also presided over a news conference to introduce Windows Mobile 6.5, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system for handhelds (which Ballmer says should be called Windows phones from now on).

The New Look of Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile 6.5 is designed to be touch friendly (read: compete with the iPhone). These screenshots provided by Microsoft show the new lock screen and the new Start screen. Note the honeycomb layout of the icons, a departure from the neat grids on most other handheld menu screens.

Microsoft's My Phone Sync Service

Ballmer also announced the Microsoft app store (one of several mobile app emporia slated to arrive in the next few months) and a sync service called My Phone that will be integrated into Windows Mobile 6.5. This shows how images synced from Windows Mobile phones using My Phone will be accessible via the Web.

Say "Hi" to the Audience, Steve

Ballmer made a brief guest appearance at LG Electronics' news conference, taking a video call over LG's video watch phone (he looked exactly this blurry at the news conference, but it was definitely his voice on the line). Ballmer's presence came as no surprise, since LG will be one of the first handset vendors to introduce a Windows phone running Windows Mobile 6.5.

No Phone Yet? Try the Table!

LG may be shipping a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone, but the star of its show was its Arena handset, which sports LG's new 3D S-Class touch interface. S-Class involves a series of virtual cubes that you spin with your fingertips (sound familiar?). This photo shows people at LG's booth playing with a virtual version of the S-Class interface, which seems like an odd way to promote a phone UI.

Give Your iPhone Some Leather Love

At a show where so much was so heavily influenced by Apple, it was odd not to see Apple in attendance. But I did see a booth where a company called Trexta was showing several iPhones--in the service of showing off its iPhone case equivalent of a bikini. Trexta calls these cases the iHug.

Opera Operating in Real Time

Opera Software's booth was mostly about the company's new Opera Turbo compression technology for speeding up loading of Web pages on all Opera browsers. But the booth also had a cool looking dynamic display showing where Opera Mini page requests were originating in real time. It's shown here; the requests are represented by the red splashes.

How About Those Mushrooms?

I'm not sure why Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo has adopted mushrooms as their mascot. But they had some cute stuffed versions at their booth.

Samsung's Happy About Its OLEDs

Samsung's booth featured a colorful exclamation point the size of an adult human, created by banks of OLED display. The snapshot doesn't do credit to the intensity of the colors, but it gives you an idea of the effect.

More from Mobile World Congress:

Image Overview: Sneak-a-Peak at Windows Mobile 6.5

Next-Gen Cell Phone Stars Shine in Barcelona

Modu: A Mobile Phone With Many Faces

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