“It is great that MWC is back,” Samsung U.K.’s’s James Kitto said, opening up this year’s presser. “And on behalf of everyone at Samsung, it’s great to be back at MWC.”
What precisely it means to be “back” in 2021 is another question entirely. Samsung was, of course, one of several major industry players who announced that they would not be exhibiting at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It was hard not to see an echo of last year’s event when key players pulled out, one by one, forcing the GSMA to cancel the event altogether.
This year’s event is different for myriad reasons. For one thing, MWC’s standard timeframe of late February/early March put the event directly in the crosshairs of COVID-19’s arrival in thE.UE.U. For another, this time out, the organizing body had another year to prepare.
The most straightforward route would have been to do what the CTA did with CES and go all-virtual. The first all-virtual CES had plenty of issues, of course, but attempting an in-person element ahead of a widespread vaccine rollout in tU.S..S. would have, at best, complicated things by orders of magnitude.
COVID-19 continues to be a concern in Spain – as with much of the world. HOWEVER, the GSMA opted to go ahead with the event this year after pushing MWC back several months from its expected dates. The company has implemented all sorts of safety measures, but judging from early videos taken at the event, social distancing ought not to prove an issue on the show floor this year.
It seems safe to assume that most who are “attending” the event are doing so virtually – a list that includes the vendors themselves.
Samsung is among those high profile companies that presented a pre-recorded virtual press conference. Perhaps companies still see value in being attached to this sort of event even if it’s virtual, or maybe the ongoing partnership with the organization is worth nurturing. The cynical part of me wonders how many of the sponsored sessions just couldn’t be reversed.
Samsung’s event was arguably the biggest of the day, but the presser felt like little more than a placeholder. The biggest news of the press conference was an expansion of a partnership Google announced at I/O last month, while much of the rest of the stream was pointing toward an Unpacked event happening later this summer.