Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mob4Hire Top Ten 2011 Mobile Predictions

Last week, we posted our “2010 report card” on how well we did with last year's predictions.

Now, let’s turn our attention to 2011. Our customers (mobile developers, product and brand managers, ad agencies, telecoms, handset manufacturers) are taking advantage of Mob4Hire’s mobile usability testing and market research services to make sure they lead the world in the mobile revolution. So, with that in mind, we put our rose-colored glasses on, and identified these top 10 opportunities / challenges that will effect our customers the most in 2011.

The Platform Race is Far From Over.

We don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or what, but there are lots of people out there saying, “The race is over, and the two winners are Apple iOS and Google Android.” No way! We’re in km 2 of a 42 km marathon which will unfold over the next 5 to 10 years, and there’s still lots to happen in the other platform camps such as RIM, Nokia, and Microsoft.

Android will continue to fragment, but this fact alone won't cause the platform success to slow down ... as long as Android phones are aggressively sold to hosts of mobile users as they were in 2010, developers will still flock to the platform.

According to Vision Mobile (see chart below), there are 13 mobile platforms of note (but of course, this doesn't include tablets, TVs or other devices, nor does it include Carrier specific platforms/API's or middleware like Flash which causes further platform confusion):

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.

I've been a software developer for 25 years, both as a coder and a brander. One thing is absolutely certain in 2011 … the need to develop excellent mobile experiences in the face of rapid change and fragmentation is more important than ever!

If you check out CNN's top tech trends of 2010, seven out of ten require those who CREATE a mobile experience.

So, the importance of people who CREATE apps, mobile websites, mobile ad campaigns is enormous. There is a GREAT deal of $$$ invested and at stake. The tsunami of change that mobile has brought will make many companies no longer viable, so developer attention is crucial to growth. A quick visit to the Computer Museum in Mountainview will show you a graveyard of computers from the PC Wars of the '80s and '90s: Atari, Kaypro, Commodore (Vic20, 64, Pet, Amiga), Amstrad, Tandy (TRS-80), Sinclair, Coleco Adam. All went the way of the Dodo bird because people who CREATE software experiences did not support the platforms.

This is, of course, why we're seeing such increased activity for developer networks and developer events. Everyone is trying to get the attention of developers, and there's just not enough good developers for everyone.

App Stores Will Continue to Explode

According to WIPConnector.com, there are currently over 100 app stores worldwide. We expect this number to be 200 next year at this time. Who will start these new app stores?

- There's over 800 Carriers in the world. Only about 30 have app stores so far. The GREAT thing that carriers have that handset manufacturers don't is the direct client relationship. Carriers who figure out how to leverage that relationship (with API's for example) will have very successful app stores.

- Online retailers ... any company who sells software on the web, and most that sell lotsa other stuff will need to be in the mobile app store game.

- Enterprises and those who serve enterprises as mobile becomes part of corporate IT integration strategies

The Cost Of Developing Mobile Experiences Will Increase Significantly

See prediction # 2. There's not enough developers for every platform to succeed. There's not enough GOOD developers to make every single app drop-dead fantastic. The complexity of creating apps across multiple-platforms is increasing. More is expected from apps. It will be much harder to have a hit with just 3 guys in a basement doing development. More integration (with carriers and enterprises) will be expected. Mobile programming consulting firms are in high-demand.

All of this points to a good thing for the mobile development community, who will finally start seeing industry salaries on par with their web and cloud development cousins.

If you are a mobile programming consultant, raise your prices!

The number of Ad Networks will explode

With the success of mobile marketing in 2010, and more importantly, with the multi-billion dollar advertising opportunity in front of us, we will see many, many companies getting into mobile marketing and ad networks.

Telecoms, with the billing relationship with all the customers, are in the best position to deliver targeted advertising since they already "KNOW THE CUSTOMER." Handset manufacturers and others are at a disadvantage, as collecting information may infringe on the privacy of the users, and thus may end up being restricted. We'll expect to see many carrier-specific ad networks pop-up this year.

Savvy app creators have started creating their own ad networks; Poynt, for example, uses a proprietary ad engine to serve ads to it's over 5M (and growing rapidly) users.

For ad agencies and brands, this is a good thing because it gives more reach and inventory.

For mobile developers, this means more opportunity to make money IF the app networks figure out how to share significant %'s of revenue with them. iAd gives developers 60% of the revenue from advertising ... in Mob4Hire's humble opinion, this revenue share should be in the 70% to 80% range, just as it is in revenue share for apps.

Microsoft Regains Share

Just like we said last year, never, ever count Microsoft out. Their release of Windows 7 last year was the come-back-kid story of 2010 technology. We think the same thing is happening in Windows Phone, although it's still too early to tell since they delivered later than we expected in 2010.

What we DO know for sure, is that:
- Both Windows 7 and Windows Phone have been received well.

- Microsoft has legions of developers already using their tools and developing for their platforms. See prediction #2.

- Microsoft has XBox to leverage in both the living room (as an XBox gaming controller / interface, as your house's remote control), and in the sales channel.

Despite this technological re-boot, success of Windows is dependent on their hardware partner relationship, who all seem to have lined up to support it (for now, anyway). So, things look ok for Microsoft, but they don't have a lot of margin for error ... they'll need to execute flawlessly.

Brands will embrace mobile for advertising and engagement

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of brand success stories. Brands are now asking themselves, "what % of traffic to my site is from mobile" and are being shocked by the answer.

The good brands will reach to engage users, and drive an integrated strategy across mobile apps, SMS messages, QR Codes, mobile websites, mobile banner ads and traditional forms of advertising such as print, TV and web.

Retail "Bricks and Mortar" companies will CELEBRATE mobile as a way to bring people back into the stores with GPS locators, coupons, and geo-locate games and social networks.

RIM and NOKIA Dance the Dance of Disruption

RIM and NOKIA are arguably the biggest of handset and O/S manufacturers that are threatened by the new wave of mobile.

Just like Microsoft, don't count either of these guys out.

Despite “pundits” who argue that "Blackberry's aren’t even a smartphone," RIM continues to post good numbers quarter after quarter. They’ve made good progress on their touch-screen form factors while maintaining the BB keyboard and feel everyone loves. They’ve got a good tablet strategy (love tethering!), although getting to market sooner rather than later would be a good thing for RIM (we predict it will be later .. maybe even the fall) ... they'll need to figure out how to make the Playbook (editors note: shoulda been called the "Blackbook"!) more than BBMessenger and email, which means developer support. They’ve shown good direction on their platform and developer tools, but still make things pretty difficult to release apps ... that's why we only see about 10,000 apps available on Blackberry App World. They'll need to figure that out.

And, while they are weakening a bit in their dominant enterprise space, their secure data back-end is a killer-app feature for large companies who just won’t look at anything else. Oh, and by the way, they have over 500 network operator partners around the world. However, because RIM makes it harder than others to deal with from an app developer point of view, and because it’s not open, RIM will never be #1 in this space. But, they'll continue to enjoy a great ride.

NOKIA? One of the guys at Mob4Hire suggests that Nokia will embrace Windows Phone as a primary operating system ... he even went so far as to suggest that the two companies will merge. Others of us think that Nokia will embrace Android; but then again, Meego is simply a Linux O/S, so that wouldn't make sense. Because Nokia will want end to end O/S and Hardware, the Meego strategy is the most apparent ... i.e. status quo. This means continued loss of market share UNLESS!!!!

Unless they are able to deliver a great Meego experience for an inexpensive hardware footprint. Europe is key to their strategy, and the quicker they get to having a smartphone experience on a featurephone (a.k.a. "dumbphone") price the better off they'll be in sustaining their position. This will spill over into their success in Africa and Asia. And, since Android is so cheap, it will be very interesting to see who gets this vital competitive edge. If they don't get this right, NOKIA is in for a lot more pain as marketshare will dwindle in the dumpphone space just as it has in the smartphone space for the last couple of years.

Finally, like RIM, NOKIA has been successful because they know the value of a good Telecom relationship, who again, in the end, has the billing relationship with the customer. This will create great leverage for them moving forward, but only if they can block the new kids in their strong markets.

Enterprise embraces mobile as a productivity tool, not just for communications

As Mob4Hire buddy, Tomi Ahonen, has said many times ... mobile phones are good for 5 minute tasks (vs. 50 minute tasks on the computer like doing spreadsheets). In the enterprise, thousands of five minute tasks are killing the productivity of corporation managers ... imagine being able to approve expenses, vacations and review metrics on the train on the way home. The Velocity platform from Kryos is a great example of the way enterprises can easily implement enterprise tools and metrics on mobile.

Many people have a "work" cell phone and a "life" cell phone (which is typically nicer!). Corporations will do a better job at figuring out how to leverage the "life" cell phone, reduce complexity and improve productivity.

For Telecoms, we see them getting involved in enterprise apps and solutions, and be able to deliver end-to-end solutions that not only include hardware and network connectivity, but also software productivity.

Look for RIM to provide BETTER tools to enterprises for this integration, or risk losing more ground in their coveted Fortune 500 space. Also, Microsoft should do well in this space, due to their big developer base already doing tons of corporate work.

HP & DELL try, but stumble in the mobile and tablet space

It has been argued that there is a commoditization of handsets and tablets coming. What separates one high-end smartphone from the other, especially if their both running the latest version of Android? Being able to order custom phones and tablets is something that Dell should be pursuing aggressively, but they seem to be happy to be just a channel for selling other manufacturer's phones.

Poor HP buys Palm last year, and finds out that they don't know what to do with Palm either. We predict HP will use Palm patents rather than Palm technology to extract value out of mobile ecosystem. Like Oracle with Sun patents, HP has to be reviewing the many, many Palm patents looking for both the opportunity and timing to join in. This has got to be the only strategy that the executive suite is pondering, since NOTHING has really been announced or produced out of the combination of products and technology. “Let’s BUY webOS and then IGNORE it for our devices in favor of Windows 7.” Ok … well, maybe we’ll see an HP Slate with webOS on it this year, but HP is certainly taking it’s time with it.


Mobile Acquisitions Will Accelerate

Large companies and brands will look around and say "WOW, this mobile thing got very huge, very quickly, and we don't have a strategy!" ... acquisitions will accelerate as mobile development companies become attractive not only for their technology and traction, but also because great mobile teams are hard to put together and it's faster / easier to buy them.


That's it for this year!

Good wealth, health and prosperity to all in 2011.


Stephen King, CEO
Mob4Hire Inc.

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