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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Samsung Is Forming an Army in Barcelona

Samsung Electronics had no new phone to show at Mobile World Congress this week. But it was ubiquitous in Barcelona nonetheless.

The South Korean company’s presence was unavoidable even outside the conference. The walls of Barcelona’s metro stations were plastered with enormous posters showing Galaxy phones. Samsung even had a booth where people could try Galaxy devices right by the exit of the metro stop near the convention center.

Samsung, of course, had one of the biggest booths on the conference floor. Other companies, like Visa, were largely interested in discussing their new partnerships with Samsung.

One of the companies at the conference was NTT Docomo, the Japanese phone carrier. It gave a modest presentation about mobile wallets. After the briefing, a Samsung employee approached a Docomo executive and introduced himself. Another partnership, perhaps, in the works.

Afer a day of reporting I met an old colleague for dinner. He now works at a small start-up in San Francisco.

“What brings you to the show” I asked.

“We have a collaboration with Samsung,” he said.

For years, many technology companies, analysts and journalists have argued that trade shows have become less relevant when it comes to showing new products. The consensus: There’s too much noise, and businesses can always use Twitter and Facebook or simply hold their own news conferences to avoid competing for attention with other companies. Therefore, less news comes out of these shows.

Apple was one of the most vocal to say it was done with trade shows. It pulled out of the Macworld Expo conference after 2009, saying its retail stores were like mini Macworlds all over the world where it could reach out to customers â€" so what was the point

Google is taking a page from Apple. Its presence at this trade show was minimal â€" there was no Google booth, just a small roun! d-table meeting with journalists where it had no news to share.

Apple, the most successful technology company in the world, knows that it doesn’t need to try hard to get other companies to work with it. So it stayed home this week (though at least a few folks from Cupertino were probably here in stealth, scoping out the competition). Samsung, which has been steadily creeping up on the industry leader, was forming an army in Barcelona, striking partnerships with companies big and small from all over the world, and proactively searching for even more to form alliances.

If you were No. 1, wouldn’t that make you feel a little nervous