Christian Lindholm is Managing Partner and Director at convergence design agency Fjord and a long-time developer of mobile products.

Mobile World Congress 2010 is a time of great excitement and trepidation for all connected with the mobile industry. Although it’s fashionable to be negative about the relevance of conferences today, Mobile World Congress, which takes place this week (Feb. 15-18) in Barcelona, Spain, is still a massively important event. Seasoned industry watchers use the event to make forecasts and predictions about the upcoming year, so I’ll be blogging from the event throughout the week. But first, a few developments to keep your eyes on:

Nokia Checks Out?

A key talking point in the Mobile community is that Nokia will, for the first time, be absent from the Mobile World Congress conference. Instead, it’s holding its own ‘Nokia Connecting People’ event in Barcelona at the same time.

This is a particularly controversial move, as Nokia has traditionally been one of the pillars of Mobile World Congress. In past years, the company has saved some of its most significant hardware launches for the event, so this is quite a deliberate statement on the part of Nokia that it wants to distinguish itself from the rest of the industry.

Should Nokia be standing on its own two feet here? Can it afford to stand on its own two feet, and not collaborate with the rest of the industry? These themes will define the early discussions at Mobile World Congress.

With Nokia’s withdrawal from the event, there will be discussions around whether Mobile World Congress is still the industry’s pre-eminent event. The conference has traditionally been about the infrastructure providers and operators, and perhaps viewing the mobile industry first and foremost from a carrier perspective is something Nokia no longer wants to promote. In its defence, I should say that the GSMA, which runs the conference, is trying to make the event more relevant by hosting an App Planet to benefit from the boom in applications. It’s doubtful, however, that we will see many developers at the conference.

Google Checks In?
Google has significantly expanded its presence at Mobile World Congress. It has brought out the big hitters this year, too, with CEO Eric Schmidt delivering a keynote. Some industry and Wall Street analysts are now speculating that Google will use this event to launch itself fully into the world of mobile.

I think we’ll see a panoply of Android devices being talked about and demoed in different form factors at the conference. I would go as far as to say that Google will be the ‘Demo darling’ of the event.

Windows Knocking?

There’s been a great deal of buzz on Twitter about a Microsoft press conference scheduled for the first day of the event. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer will apparently be on hand to introduce Windows Phone 7, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what is announced there.

Microsoft finally looks ready to step up and make it happen in this space after years of trying hard. The mobile industry has moved a long way from Exchange and e-mail.

What is Apple’s role?

One question on everyone’s lips ahead of Mobile World Congress is what role Apple will play. Will it remain as invisible as it has in the past at the event, or will it be securely present in the pockets of the participants and in the megabytes of data usage?

Last year Apple had one employee checking out startups that are thinking about submitting apps to Apple’s App Store. My colleagues at Fjord and I conduct something of a straw poll at every Mobile World Congress. It’s always interesting to see which handset is the most dominant amongst influencers. Last year, it was unquestionably the Blackberry. Will it be the iPhone this year?

Christian Lindholm is Managing Partner and Director at Fjord, a convergence design agency. In his previous role as Vice President of Global Mobile Products for Yahoo, he was responsible for the global creation of the company’s various mobile products. Before joining Yahoo, he spent 10 years with Nokia in various roles in the areas of user interface, product creation and venturing. During that time, he invented the Nokia Navi-key user interface, fathered the Series 60 user interface and created Nokia Lifeblog – a multimedia diary. He’s based in London.