Mobile World Congress is underway in Barcelona. By most metrics it’s the largest conference in the world dedicated mostly to mobile technology and gadgets. And Samsung just punted. Mobile World Congress needs Samsung more than Samsung needs Mobile World Congress.
Samsung just held its MWC press conference and what’s interesting is what wasn’t announced: The Galaxy S8. Instead, Samsung chose to announce several passé tablets and a new VR headset, because in the end Samsung doesn’t need a third party to facility interest.
Yet during the presser, Samsung sent out an invite announcing the S8’s announcement, which will happen March 29 in New York City. Said another way, Samsung announced an announcement at another announcement.
MWC, CES, E3 and every other industry-specific event like auto shows have long existed to bring manufacturers and distributers together under one event. C-suite executives from both sides meet in hotel rooms and bars and local golf courses and chat about how they can work together. The press just shows up for the ride.
Samsung isn’t the first to pull back from announcing flagship devices at an industry trade event. Apple stopped using Macworld as a launch platform years ago — and the event withered and died because of it. Even Microsoft used Comdex to unveil major features including Window’s USB support.
The idea is to lean on these trade event’s critical mass of fans, press and industry insiders. But eventually a few companies grow so large, like Salesforce and Apple, that they have to start throwing their own events to remove themselves from the timeline dictated by trade events.
Samsung’s mobile division has been teetering on needing their own event for years. The company tried to pull this off in the past with the Galaxy S4 launch. That phone was announced with a cheesy and sexist off-Broadway event. It was terrible. Just so bad. Samsung returned to MWC to announce the S5, S6 and S7.
But not the S8.
There could be several reasons why. Perhaps the timing of MWC is wrong this year and the S8 needed a few more weeks in the oven. Or maybe Samsung decided to remove itself from the scrum of Mobile World Congress to curate a different experience. The reason is irrelevant. Samsung doesn’t need to launch the S8 at a trade event. It will have no problem getting the entire industry to pay attention for the S8 launch.