Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Mobile trends for 2012

This year promises to be yet another exciting year for the mobile industry, here are my predictions for 2012

1. A new order for smartphone operating systems

Of the many mobile changes to come in 2012 we will see a shift in the top three smartphone operating systems. At the moment it’s Android which leads the way, followed by Apple’s iOS, and then BlackBerry in third. But these aren’t good times for BlackBerry maker RIM, and they’ll get worse as the year progresses.

The number of BlackBerry users was globally down by three per cent at the end 2011 from just a few months ago. Eastern world market demand of low cost handsets is not sustainable for RIM, which has traditionally targeted the high-end corporate market. It also faces more fierce competition from iPhones and Android devices, previously questionable for use in the enterprise. Premium BlackBerry devices remain as expensive as any top end mobile, and the controversial data outage towards the end of last year didn’t help its reputation. Added to this, its new operating system isn’t due out until Q4 2012, meaning those at the end of their mobile contracts in 2012 may well consider a different device.

The new smartphone OS and new entrant to third position will be Windows Phone 7.5. Since entering the marketplace with its range of Lumia devices, Nokia has been predicted to sell around 40 million devices in 2012. New Window Phone devices from Samsung, HTC and LG will propel Windows to a global third place position by the end of 2012.

2. LTE woes to continue in the UK

The UK has been known as pioneers of mobile technology, but this mantle is slipping. Roll-out of 4G communications infrastructure has shown the UK to be more of a laggard, thanks largely due to threatened litigation from O2 and Vodafone who are concerned that rivals Three and Everything Everywhere would be given preferential treatment. The result has been further delays to the 4G spectrum auction, which was originally intended to happen in 2009. For the first time carriers from the USA and Asia are ahead of the UK in standardising and deploying LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks. With an auction finally pencilled in for the end of the year, the UK now faces the prospect seeing no broadly available LTE services until 2014.

3. Contactless mobile payments to gain traction
This summer will see a concerted effort by Visa and Samsung to use the 2012 Olympic Games as a marketing platform for contactless payment solutions using NFC (near field communication) technologies. With a considerable marketing spend behind activities, it should act as rocket fuel to drive understanding and uptake in the consumer and corporate space. In Las Vegas, CES announcements included many from major manufacturers committed to producing NFC-enabled phones in 2012.

4. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) & Consumerisation set to flourish

As the UK economy predictably fails to kick-start in 2012, the impact of BYOD and Consumerisation of mobile technology will be felt ever more keenly. A recent Forrester report stated that businesses IT spend last year grew by 11 per cent, but predicted a growth of 5 per cent for 2012. With significantly less available to spend on IT, there will be a greater onus on maximising the existing devices of employees through new business models. Eliminating a layer of cost and introducing efficiencies can be achieved without considerable investment, and a number of organisations are set to find out how.

Manufacturer LG and VMware have partnered to introduce “virtual environments” which give Smartphone and tablet devices access via a corporate servers and applications in a controlled and secure fashion. Related to this will be a growth in secure corporate app stores, which will help to support
the new infrastructure.

5. Further breaks found in the Corporate Cloud

Corporate organisations examining infrastructure costs and projected spends will focus anew on cloud-based solutions. The potential to migrate and mobilise day-to-day systems within the cloud promises benefits of cost, given the charge per use, and simplicity in terms of delivery.

Barriers to large scale adoption include the lack of corporate strength SLAs, meaning mission-critical applications will remain within the enterprise until such time that they improve. As a result, it’s likely to be the less critical applications migrating first, to prove the concept, such as email, ecommerce sites, office systems and potentially CRM systems.

6. UK smartphone penetration to surpass 50 per cent

New research from Ofcom stated that 48 per cent of all phones sold in the UK is a smartphone. With UK penetration of smartphones currently standing at around 30 per cent, low cost smartphones are beginning to attract a new type of buyer. Smartphone penetration will soon increase to over 50 per cent, freeing up new, rich media services for those that want them. However, there will always be a fraction of the population which sees see no reason to want a smartphone.

7. Text messaging to decline

The growth of IP-based messaging such as Apple’s iMessage, instant messaging, Facebook and chat clients will all combine to chip away at SMS revenues. The proliferation of new smartphones and new devices mean more operating systems are available which support IP-based messaging. Added to this will be behavioural changes such as increased use of Facebook and Facebook-specific chat clients with a richer messaging experience.

Although still popular with certain demographics and certainly still with massive range of different applications, overall volumes of SMS text messages will begin to dwindle.

8. Keep taking the tablets

The rise and rise of tablets will show no sign of slowing. With 261,000 device shipments across Western Europe in August 2011 alone – according to CCS Insight, the tablet market is still a drop in the ocean compared to mobile phones. But their surge in popularity will continue through 2012.

The birth of a Windows 8 tablet later in the year will present new challenges to the dominant iPad form factor and iOS, as will the new ‘ice-cream sandwich’ Android OS, which is set for release. Increased competition will inevitably lead to more affordable price brackets, with BlackBerry’s Playbook already made available for under £200. Forecasts have even suggested we’ll own more than one tablet each.

9. Smart tablets to get a good corporate wrap
“Wrappers” will become a key way of accessing corporate information on smart tablet devices, using terminal services or running Virtual Machines. Terminal services, while not yet a truly mobile methodology as it requires a reasonable network speed through a WiFi network, will summon more efficient methods of delivering terminal services onto mobile devices throughout 2012. This will ultimately be supported by 4G, but don’t hold your breath for that.

But as Tablets become increasingly powerful, the possibility of running Virtual Machines (VMs) containing a selection of corporate applications becomes very real. Such technologies will also accelerate BYOD in the workplace.

10. HTML5 to help bypass app stores

The late Steve Jobs did much to make Flash incompatible with the internet browsers of Apple’s devices, because the technology is used to create and enhance applications and can weaken the App Store offering if used within browsers. This subsequently helped the success of its App Store, allowing apps to do things that weren’t possible inside Apple’s Safari browser. The birth and development of HTML5 now gives the opportunity for comparable features and functions to be hosted within the internet browsing session of a range of devices, including iPhones and iPads.

Amazon’s recent creation of a Kindle web store for iPad reflects a deliberate attempt to evade the mandatory revenue share with Apple, using an HTML5 solution, while the Financial Times is also attempting something similar. Such efforts will become more commonplace this year.

2012 will see HTML5 being established as the corporate tool of choice for secure app stores to be created by individual companies. This brings opportunities back to developers and means the big consumer application stores stand a good chance of being gradually frozen out.

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