The keynotes at this week's Mobile World Congress were silver lined with talk of "The Cloud". Ericsson and Microsoft were two prime examples (HTC also has a similar strategy) of putting the cloud front and centre of their offerings and strategic road maps.
All of Ericsson's communications channels are delivering the message 'Network Society', as was their president and CEO, Hans Vestberg, in his keynote speech on Tuesday.
But with the recent tie-up announcement from Nokia and Microsoft, more ears were on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
At his keynote on Monday, we learned that the Windows 7 update coming later this year will include a link to Microsoft's Office Hub called 'Skydrive.' MS have already integrated cloud computing into their Windows Mobile OS which offers access to programs hosted online.
But this office hub feature goes a step further. Access to Skydrive means that employees can open, edit and save project files like PowerPoint, Word and Excel documents which can be shared and distributed from the cloud. A user can mark their cloud storage as public or share it with others. On the face of it, it is quite a straightforward access to company folders on shared drives, but it is new because this functionality is integrated right into the operating system of Windows mobile phones and it allows mobile editing and sharing of documents.
OS integration means it should be efficient to use and user friendly. Further to this, Internet Explorer 9 will be supported and the new Nokia phones should offer decent hardware graphics acceleration. Apple's iPhone, for example, does not include hardware acceleration at present and the demo from Microsoft (using a HTC phone) clearly showed how much faster IE9 is when compared to Safari on a mobile phone.
So it would seem that the world is shifting from the battle of devices to the battle of platforms and the cloud has a significant role to play. Even taking into account all the talk of "two turkeys do not make an eagle…" I would argue that Microsoft and Nokia, together, are in a good position to take advantage of this shift towards future platform battlegrounds.
From a creative perspective, the cloud makes things much more rich and interesting when working with mobile, especially when making branded applications - as it did with the media that came before.
Take television as an example. The format of television is defined by the unique elements of TV sets. Until fairly recently these used to be just two in number, the screen and the speaker. So we would make films for the screen and sounds for the speaker. When the cloud became available for TV some new elements became available for us to work with like the 'red button' of interactive and today even applications on Apple TV. The same thing has happened with mobile, but to a greater extent.
We (Ogilvy) are a creative agency and, as such, it is important that we understand the format of any medium that we work with. The format gives us our canvas on which to tell stories. With mobile, like TV, this format is defined by the unique elements of the devices. For Smartphones, these elements are the speaker, microphone, camera, touch screen, GPS chip, accelerometer, compass etc.
Back in 2007 we were making Java apps for brands like Guinness and Fanta. These were local to the devices (so downloaded and didn't connect to the internet) and used the speaker in a creative way. With the application of the cloud, things like the speaker, microphone or camera of a mobile phone change in a very interesting way. As a brand using mobile and the cloud, the microphone becomes your ears and the camera becomes your eyes. See this YouTube video for a multi award winning example of this work in action.
The application of cloud computing to the unique elements of mobile devices is opening up a rich territory for a new wave of technical creatives - just watch this space!