barcelona

On the opening day of Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Spain on Sunday, various hardware makers announced new quad-core phone designs, all based on Google's fourth and latest Android version, "Ice Cream Sandwich." HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, and a host of smaller players all announced new devices on the opening day of the show.

Curiously, Microsoft has no official presence at the show and won't be providing a press conference as it has in previous years. That said, it appears that large numbers of people from the firm's Windows and Windows Phone teams are in attendance, and of course Nokia is providing a press conference of its own on Monday. Nokia is expected to announce low-end devices based on the forthcoming Windows Phone "Tango," and handset maker HTC on Sunday tipped its hat, saying it, too, would have a Tango device available this year.

(Microsoft will unveil the Windows 8 Consumer Preview later this week in Barcelona, but that event is separate from Mobile World Congress and is happening in that city only because so many Windows-division employees and press members are already there.)

As for the competition, HTC announced a series of devices, including quad-core handsets with LTE 4G capabilities. LG announced similarly equipped phones and tablet devices. Samsung announced updated versions of its Galaxy Tab tablets; the Series 2 versions will come in 7" and 10" variants and will be accompanied by a new Galaxy Beam handset. And Sony has two Android-based handsets hitting the market mid-year.

The big question about quad-core devices, of course, is why? Today's single- and dual-core processor handsets and tablets perform very well already and offer better battery life. It's unclear what benefit users will see from quad-core processors, but as with the "megahertz wars" of the PC market of a decade ago, there seems to be an illogical belief that more is always better.