I have three predictions for the coming year:
Prediction #1: I have seen the future, and it is Android. Or rather, the Android model is going to be the model that “wins out.” Right now, especially for those who tote iPhones around, that might be difficult to see or understand. The iPhone seems like a device which embodies all the mobile 2.0 ideals I first wrote about in 2006. It provides access to a wealth of applications and services. It’s easy to use. It’s connected. It has created new product categories (apps) and new routes to market. But, as iPhone detractors often point out, it’s a closed ecosystem. I submit that no matter how “insanely great” the iPhone is, the ecosystem that Apple has created around it cannot scale. So, we are back to another prediction I made, at 2008′s Future of Mobile conference: Android will be to the iPhone what the PC was to the Mac. Why? User choice. You can download and install an app on an Android phone without buying it from Android Market. You can download it directly, or from an alternative app store such as GetJar. I predict 2010 will be the year that Android apps will begin to rival iPhone apps – maybe not in terms of sheer numbers, but in terms of consumer and developer mindset. This will be the year in which “download our Android App” buttons will join “download our iPhone App” buttons on sites across the Web. Don’t believe me? Check out this interesting data point (take a look at the “customer satisfaction” graph – I predict Android and iPhone will change places by the end of the year).
Prediction #2: At the same time, richer functionality (enabled by the HTML5 platform and APIs such the geolocation API) within to the browser and web runtimes will enable the creation of a new class of WebApp (and Web Widgets) that will work interchangeably between Android, iPhone and other emerging smartphone platforms. The result of this trend will bolster the growth of Android as consumers will begin to perceive that they don’t have to buy iPhone to get a rich mobile Web experience.
Prediction #3: The Social Web will rise. This is hardly a surprising prediction coming from me. But what will it mean for the (mobile) industry and for consumers? We have already seen a rise of social apps and webapps on mobile, such as Brightkite, Yelp, Rummble and Foursquare: applications that take advantage of unique features of the mobile platform to bring real-time social connection into new places and to new user communities. We will start to see these applications weave together using emerging social web standards such as the so-called open stack and activity streams. For users, it will mean easier and more seamless social sharing, especially for long-tail social apps. The social web will make it easier for people to choose the right tool for the job without being as constrained by “where their friends are.” The mobile industry, however, is generally more used to thinking about scale and market-dominating players (yes, e.g. Facebook), so the tools the mainstream mobile industry puts in front of people will continue to orbit around these market-dominating social networks. (Ironically, the Facebooks of the world very much understand the social web trend so are actually on their way towards dismantling their walled gardens just as mobile industry players are building more functionality on top of them.) Meanwhile, predictions #1 and #2 will mean that people will have more and more choices and will increasingly go “off-piste” and choose their own social tools and applications.
It all adds up to 2010 being the year of user choice: choice of handset, choice of platforms, choice of social networks, choice of apps.