The Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, just as it does every January. What's the next big event that tech investors and watchers have to look forward to? Mobile World Congress! The smartphone and tablet mobilepalooza kicks off on Monday in Barcelona, Spain, and lasts through most of the week before winding down on March 1. Here's what you can expect in the coming week.
Make no mistake: 2012 is the year of the quad-core mobile processor. It wouldn't be a mobile event without an overwhelming presence of ARM Holdings licensees. We're still early in the year, which means the only ARM chipmaker that currently has CPUs of this caliber available is NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) . The company's quad-core Tegra 3 chip is now starting to hit the market but as of yet has been in only one device: the Asus Transformer Prime tablet.
Device maker LG jumped the gun by a few days and has taken the wraps off of its new flagship phone, the Optimus 4X HD, which will carry the Tegra 3. It didn't show its entire hand and has more in store in the coming week. NVIDIA may also be about to cut in on Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM ) dance with HTC, and I'm expecting HTC to similarly unveil a quad-core smartphone with a Tegra 3 chip, a distinct move away from the Snapdragons that HTC has primarily used thus far.
With an expectedly heavy focus on quad-core smartphones, NVIDIA should be center stage at the event as the first mover in that quad space.
Don't forget Qualcomm
Just because good old Qualcomm won't have any quad-core Snapdragons available, that doesn't mean the chipmaker will be sitting on the sidelines. It will show off some conceptual quad-core devices, but its real belle of the ball will go a different route.
Integration has always been one of the company's specialties and key differentiators, while one of the biggest drawbacks to 4G LTE in general has always been that the technology unforgivingly gobbles up juice, killing battery life in the process. Qualcomm will be pushing a dual-core Snapdragon with an integrated 4G LTE baseband.
Just about all LTE devices currently available use a discrete modem, adversely affecting battery life. Integrating this functionality directly into the chipset will dramatically improve power efficiency and help spare battery life. There are other contributors to poor battery life, but this baseband integration will be a big factor.
The Wintel duo is taking separate cars
Longtime partners in crime Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) will also be present, but the pair probably won't be doing much together.
Intel will be focusing heavily on its Medfield Atom mobile chip, which hopes to take on the ARMed forces, while Intel has recently hooked up with Googorola in various ways. Chipzilla and Google announced late last year that the search giant was optimizing Android for Intel chips. At CES last month, Intel also announced partnerships on the hardware side with Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) and Lenovo.
Intel and Motorola are expected to unveil their first offspring during the event.
Windows 8 = Microsoft's mobile strategy
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is set to launch at the event and will serve as Mr. Softy's tablet-bound OS. The OS was detailed back in September along with a developer preview, but soon mere mortals should be able to get their hands on a consumer preview.
Another reason Windows 8 is so important for Microsoft's mobile strategy is that Windows Phone 8 will be based on the Windows 8 kernel, a change from current versions of WP. The OS will also include ARM support to broaden its horizons.
That sets the stage for the further convergence between desktop and mobile operating systems that has already begun.
Don't touch that dial
There will be plenty of other gadgets on display from handfuls of other players, so this is hardly an inclusive list. These are but some of the key themes that we can expect to emerge from MWC this year. It will be a busy week with mobile news and developments, so don't forget to stay tuned and check back for more Foolish coverage this week.
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