Predictions for 2009

2008 was another exciting year for anything mobile in general, it was especially the breakthrough of Mobile 2.0 - its meme has now over 1.000.000 entries in Google. Many industry players started using the mobile 2.0 term in their marketing strategy, the iPhone stayed untouchable as the perfect catalyst converging web and mobile applications and services (300 million apps downloaded in 21 weeks!). 2008 was also the year of the breakthrough of mobile social media (Facebook mobile services grew by + 300%) and the Mobile Internet skyrocketed in Emerging Markets. Despite the shaky economy, the mobile phone continues its path as the default remote control towards the Internet of Things, creating various opportunities for new application scenarios for entrepreneurs in an ever-evolving global mobile ecosystem.

Read my Mobile and Wireless Trends for 2008 and check for yourself what I predicted last year. It’s always a good personal exercise how close one is predicting mobile market trends and it’s also an indicator of what I think will matter in 2009. It seems very obvious and easy but predicting trends can be tricky, just try it for yourself! Check also my for some interesting predictions from other technology blogs I bookmarked during holidays. You can read about my professional activities in 2008 here.

Make sure you check out Carlo Longino’s and Russell Buckley’s yearly predictions at Mobhappy, their predictions are now becoming nearly classic and are always one of my favourite readings during holiday.

So, here below my 10 Mobile Trends for 2009:

1. 10 startups I know personally will go bankrupt

Let’s start with the bad one first. I’m going to be bolder than Carlo with this prediction. Not to discourage my entrepreneurial friends around but 2009 is going to be really bad for many startups in mobile that haven’t been able to raise funding in 2008 or before. Especially the ones that don’t have a business model to generate cash will have to rely on their own private funding to survive the downturn period ahead. On the other hand I see a lot of talent out there with great ideas and/or unique developing capacity. I believe there will be more mergers and acquisitions of companies to keep technology and knowledge on their end and create new interest of VC’s interested to invest in such new talent pools before year end. Don’t forget that a lot of internet services still need to develop that specific mobile functionality, so I see a lot of consolidation for both web and mobile industries to make more web and mobile convergence happening.

2. iPhone Nano

Following their iPod product strategy, Apple will launch an iPhone Nano type of iPhone targeted to the mobile youth and teenagers market. Bringing a slimmer device to the market for this market segment (the hottest in mobile!) will boost Apple sales once again and keep building its mobile device manufacturer market share easily towards 10 % the years to come. I don’t need a lot of analytical market research data for this as proof. Just run a local focus group as I did with my 16year old daughters and their peers, and there’s no turning back, they all want an iPhone device!

I don’t see any competitor the coming 2 years coming up with a device that good as the iPhone. Nokia’s N97 is promising but Nokia has a problem with it’s OS. The company will need at least two years to move seamless to the new open-source OS after having acquired Symbian in 2008. Blackberry is staying strong in its segment for business users and travellers and it will stay there for a while since the iPhone is still lacking good & fast keypad input - the typical Blackberry need for business travellers hooked to responding emails 24/7. Blackberry has also a unique advantage to its competitors with its flat fees for global

Also, I agree with Stowe Boyd’s prediction, that Steve Jobs will step down as a CEO of Apple in 2009. AAPL lost + 50% in stock value in 2008 so it’s a good time for transition to rebuild company value from this point onwards, less depending on the health speculations of Steve Jobs.

3. Location becomes obsolete

Location - a specific position or point in physical space as used in technology, will become obsolete in 2009. By many industry players pushed as the new hype, location is already becoming a commodity.What I mean with this is that the user will not have to worry anymore about finding their location on their device, a lot of services and applications will have it build in by default. There will not be such thing as location-based advertising, etc… However there will be opportunities for the companies that can intelligently build new services around locations. The game is not around the location itself but around the ‘discovery’ of services around a location. Think Around Me, UrbanSpoon or GoodRec apps on the iPhone, Skyhook’s location-enabled browser toolbar, Loki, and startups like Rummble to discover recommended places by your friends and Skout who recently switched its strategy towards dating services based on location.

More and more iPhone apps and nearly all of the applications in the Android Developer Challenge have location technology embedded. Nokia acquired Gate5 previously, then Navteq and Plazes to make Nokia Maps as an essential part of their services strategy. Brightkite just announced that it’s now officially integrated with Facebook Connect and soon most application and service will have location build in.

4. Mobile will boost Virtual Goods consumption

The Virtual Economy already worth $1.2 billion and estimated to reach $6bn by 2010 (notes from the Virtual Goods Summit). Virtual goods will survive the hype, moreover, triggered from the mobile phone in combination with social media sites such as Facebook, Bebo or MySpace, this will create new revenues other then advertising. Micro payments systems such as Spare Change (powered by PayPal) and Zong let users move cash into the system, and applications like Mob Wars have gathered as much as $1 million per month from micropayments.

With better usability and accessibility of mobile services and platforms coming to us, consumers will buy more songs, more games, more applications (apps are replacing premium goods such as wallpapers and ringtones), and will send more virtual gifts to their friends and peers.

Once setup an account with a credit card, as for example on iTunes, the consumption of virtual goods is a no brainer. Personally I spent more last year bying songs, applications and games on the iPhone then I ever did from any other mobile phone. Better applications triggers more data consumption!

5. Mobile Cloud Computing

Today’s mobile applications need to be dynamic with ongoing content updates from users, many apps use cloud computing to store critical live data on servers on the web. On-the-go professionals and entreprises need to be able to interact with their employees and collegues from any Internet-connected computer or virtually any mobile handset. Documents as well as mail, address book, images, audio & video files, etc. need to be backed up continuously and securely to the cloud. Comcast acquired Plaxo, Vodafone acquired Zyb in 2008. Many companies need to implement mobile sales force automation solutions so I see services like SoonR for small and medium companies becoming more and more important. 2009 will be a breakthrough year for these kind of services.

6. Mobile SEO becoming increasingly important

With the fragmention of the device market not improving a lot, mobile SEO services and mobile search marketing will become as important for brands as their internet SEO. Finding products and services in the real world on the go will be key to many businesses. Local Search is rapidly becoming a million (probably billion) dollar industry - major players such as AOL, Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Microsoft have all jumped into this market.

Ever wondered how consumers will find your product/service on a mobile phone? It’s all about discovery, how users will detect the new and cool stuff. I believe a lot will be discovered through social media tools and friend recommendations but mobile SEO is of basic importance for any brand taking itself serious.

7. Mobile Browsers accessing device capabilities

In 2009, mobile browsers will become smarter - even on lower end phones, and will be able to access device capabilities such as camera, location and other mobile specific features. There are currently little hurdles left to browse Facebook from a mobile browser the same as you do from the Facebook App on the iPhone. Nearly the same functionality will be accessible through the browser, opening the gate for Nokia Series 40 phone users to have a better mobile web experience. Note that the Series 40 platform is the world’s most widely used mobile device platform, the Series 40 Browser is based on webkit technology.

Opera Mini users viewed more than 5.7 billion pages in November 2008 (!). Mozilla’s Fennec will be released this year, its difficult to see at this point what will be the impact of the browser on the mobile browser market but Mozilla will definately come up with some innovations on this end, note also a possible Google Chrome Mobile to be released this year too. All good news for the mobile web users!

8. Dense physical shopping area’s become a new potential for mobile data consumption

Many cities have hyper dense shopping area’s with millions of people passing by per year. Think about the potential these zones create for consumers to receive informations, vouchers, promotions, etc… on the mobile phone through short range technologies such as bluetooth or wi-fi. The cell phone can act as a new channel to trigger better recommendations for the consumer on what’s available in that area but also to stimulate digital goods consumption.

9. Mobile Collaboration Services on the rise

With the economic crisis hitting many travel expenses budgets the coming year, mobile video conferencing tools such as PhoneTopp will be booming this year. Due to downturn, people in general will travel less but the need to communicate, to learn and to stay informed with colleagues, friends and peers on what’s happening abroad stays. Applications and services in this area will grow. See also the potential of applications such as QIK and Seesmic and others have in this area. Just think for example about the potential of live video dating :)

10. Mobile phone used to trigger disease detection

A couple of weeks ago, by using only an LED, plastic light filter and some wires, scientists at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute modded a cellphone into a portable blood tester capable of monitoring HIV, malaria, leukemia and detecting diseases. The tone is set for researchers and entrepreneurs to focus on some innovations in this area. the mHealth area has great potential in both the Western world and emerging countries, the mobile device can be used as a key instrument to improve people’s lifes and health. Look at the numerous iPhone applications already available for tracking users’ health using location and accelerometer functionality. Other devices and software are specifically developed to help elder and sick people in urgent situations.

That’s it, I’ll stop here. 2009 is also the 10th year I’ll be working in mobile. As the web becomes now accessible from the mobile for many people, a lot of essential work has been done since I saw my first video demo on a mobile phone back in 1999 in Finland. I can still see a lot of new opportunities in unexplored convergent area’s coming ahead such as in Health, Education, Assisted Living, Digital Home Solutions, Connected Cars, etc.

I’ll keep focusing on innovations happening in that area.

Wish you all the best for 2009!


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