Last week I made some technology predictions in the Microsoft space. This week I will venture outside and look at the mobile space. 2010 will be remembered as the year where the mobile device hits critical mass, where we rely more on the smart device for Facebook, Twitter, email, TripIt, YouTube, etc, than an actual computer. With the device so important lets take a look at some mobile predictions.
2010: Google v Apple
With the introduction of the Nexus One phone from Google last week, Google just stepped on Apple’s toes. While Google is pushing its Android Mobile operating system to hardware manufactures, Google teamed up with HTC and built the Nexus One to sell as an unlocked GMS phone (and a TDMA version on the way for Verizon users.)
This represents a two pronged attack by Google. First Android is now considered an alternative to the iPhone by manufactures watching their market share disappear to the iPhone, just look at the Droid by Motorola. Second, by offering an unlocked phone directly from Google, while a risky move since they don’t want to annoy Android adopters like Motorola, Google is taking a page out of the Apple playbook-control the entire experience: software and hardware.
Apple will be concerned since it relies on apps by Google on the iPhone such as Gmail and YouTube. Concerned, but Apple is apparently not intimidated. On the same day as the Nexus One announcement, Apple announced that they would acquire Quattro Wireless for $275 Million. Quattro is an ad company, so Apple is basically saying that if Google is going to play in the iPhone world, Apple is going to play in the advertising world-Google’s largest source of revenue (say 90%) .
I won’t predict how this will end, however, I will predict that 2010 will have a lot more “Google v Apple” headlines as new devices and services are announced.
2010: Carriers lose control
One thing to think about is that while the Google v Apple battle is fun to talk about, let’s not forget about the carriers. 2010 will be remembered as the year the US Mobile industry changed. Before the iPhone, the carriers had full control. We bought a phone and service from them. They sold us crappy locked phones. You could not buy a different phone unless you traveled abroad and saw one and had a GSM carrier at home. If you did not travel and saw a cool phone and were lucky enough to have your carrier offer that phone, you could buy it from them and the carrier would brand the phone and remove several features. This was so common that many people did not even realize it was happening.
Apple made a device that everyone wanted. AT&T wanted it so bad that they let Apple do just about anything they wanted to. So while you still buy your locked iPhone from AT&T, it is the exact phone Apple designed, not the carrier. Sure AT&T had some influence over what was in the AppStore and that caused some problems last summer, but the iPhone was the first shot in the revolution.
This year represents the next step in the battle: removing control of the handset from the carrier completely. While the iPhone was a step in the right direction, if you wanted one you still had to deal with AT&T and it was basically impossible to get the iPhone anywhere else other than AT&T.
The Nexus One is the first “must have” phone that is not tied to a carrier. You buy your phone first at Google.com and then take your chip and put it into your phone and it works. While there are exceptions to this (AT&T 3G frequencies are currently not supported, defaulting you to EDGE, etc) it is the first step of removing the control the carriers have. Other vendors will follow suit. Fast forward a few years and Americans will do what people do in most countries, buy the phone first and then buy the service. This will lead to bigger and better innovation in devices.
2010: The year Microsoft comes back from the dead
Let’s face it, Windows Mobile has been left for dead behind the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. A lot of people are counting Microsoft out. While it is late in the game for Microsoft, the iPhone showed that you can build an awesome device and grab huge market share in just 2.5 years. Microsoft has been working on Windows Phone 7.0 for well over a year, if not much longer. They have not given us “insiders” any info (very Apple of them.) That allows me to speculate wildly and make the prediction that Microsoft will do something bold in the mobile space in 2010.
Microsoft will do two things in 2010. First they will release the long awaited Windows Phone 7.0. We may see an announcement as early as next month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This would work well since the MVP summit is the same week in Redmond, so they can make the announcement in Barcelona and then offer MVPs more technical details. We should see Windows Phone 7 ship in 2010 and it will most likely be based on the Zune HD with a healthy dosage of Silverlight on top for application development. Will it succeed, that I can’t predict, but I will predict it will be good enough to keep Microsoft relevant.
Speaking of Silverlight, that is going to be Microsoft’s next big mobile move: position Silverlight as a cross platform mobile application framework. While Adobe and Apple don’t get along, Microsoft will start to position its Silverlight platform to work with Android and the iPhone. It will be a way to get the Microsoft footprint onto those devices.
Will my predictions be right? I hope so. But if not, it sure will be an exciting year in the mobile space!