Opinion: The year ahead in mobile -- Mobile services and fewer platforms

But Microsoft's will remain one of them

It's that time of the year again, when we all settle in to soak up the warmth of a laptop while admiring the LED shimmering with holiday cheer.

And that means it's time for me to take a look at what's going to happen in mobile technology in 2010. My short answer is: a lot, but if you want details, here are my five predictions for the coming year in mobility.

Special report: Looking back at 2009, ahead to 2010
Special report: Looking back at 2009, ahead to 2010
  1. Mobile services will gain importance over applications -- Mobile applications have caught everyone's attention, and understandably so; it's an important market. In the coming year, other players will continue to go after Apple as they try to capture some of that company's app glory (100,000 apps and counting for the iPhone). But the more important story for both business and consumers is going to involve the services that are enabled by those applications and the mobile devices they run on. IT departments in particular need to start drafting guidance on how to properly bring business efforts to the mobile arena, including line of business applications, marketing and customer support, as well as determine which mobile platforms will be supported.
  2. The smartphone market will fragment -- Not too long ago, all smartphones were the same, and there weren't that many of them on the market. We've come a long way since I first wrote about the Handsrping Treo in December 2001. Not only are there a lot more devices available these days, but there's a multitude of platforms that they run on. This will make it harder than ever to differentiate categories. IT is going to have to get serious about setting rules about what's allowed on the network and what's not. Look for issues like application development, security and management to become hot topics as devices targeted at the masses and therefore lacking features critical to business deployment are sneaked onto corporate networks.
  3. Mobile platforms will consolidate -- There are now about 10 different platforms, from Palm, Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Nokia, Samsung, Google and others, vying for the hearts and minds of developers and handset vendors. It reminds me a lot of the early days of the PC. While I don't think the same thing will happen here, with one platform emerging to rule them all, 10 is much too much. Look for a lot of consolidation in 2010. Some platforms might not even make it through the year.
  4. We will hit the intersection of mobile and social networks -- The integration of new features such as integrated compasses, GPS and fast networks has allowed a new breed of applications to emerge such as Foursquare for broadcasting your whereabouts, and even Twitter has taken on new life with geotagging and location awareness. Augmented reality applications will provide opportunities for reaching customers in entirely new ways. Of course, these sorts of apps will mix personal and business networks on devices in ways that will cause new headaches for IT departments struggling to keep their networks and users safe.
  5. Microsoft will not retreat from the mobile market -- It's just not going to happen. Sure, Microsoft has stumbled some, but it hasn't been enough to send the company into retreat from the mobile market. The velocity of the market, where it can seem sometimes as if change comes along every 18 minutes rather than 18 months, means that it's still very much anyone's game. Microsoft understands the importance for all of its business of succeeding in mobile. As a matter of fact, I expect to see some very interesting things from Redmond in mobile in 2010.

As always, my wishes for you for a new year filled with peace, life and prosperity. Happy holidays, and see you in 2010.

Michael Gartenberg is vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret LLC. His weblog can be found at Gartenblog.net. Contact him at mgartenberg@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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