December 18, 2009

The mobile highway in 2010

Written by Jon Arne Sæterås.Filed under Blog | Read the First Comment

It is finally time to look ahead into the next year of mobile. 2009 has most certainly been “a year of mobile”, but 2010 will be even bigger. You can read the our blog post of predictions for 2009 and you will see that most of it actually happened. 2009 was the year when the world finally realised the potential of mobile and how freaking huge it is and how much it will grow! There are 3.8 billion mobile phones out there. 2009 was the year where more people were surfing mobile web than desktop web. 1.2 billion mobile web surfer vs.. 1 billion desktop web surfers. So Mobiletech agrees with the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo: Mobile Internet Is and Will be Bigger Than Most Think! (Morgan Stanley).

So what about 2010? You think stuff happened quickly in 2009? Brace yourselves for 2010! The content owners have just learned enough about how mobile web works to make decisions, but during 2010 the basis of these decisions will already be old fashioned, wrong and will lead to many failing investments and efforts. Below I will explain shortly a few areas worth following.

The handsets

The iPhone is a game-changer. Hence, many have focused on the iPhone by creating iPhone sites. Mobiletech has been shouting since iPhone was launched: “IT IS NOT ABOUT THE IPHONE!”, and 2010 will prove that. iPhone will still be a popular device, but there will be others. We see some of these devices today, but 2010 will show us more. Google will launch a phone, new Android devices will come, Nokia is looking for the holy grail. So for those believing that the mobile technology market will soon be defragmented, sorry, but the fragmentation will be worse than ever. Even among Android devices. Even if iPhone is still going to be the most important device on the mobile web in 2010 you will exclude most users if you choose to go for an “iPhone site”. So, it’s not about the iPhone, it is really about the new interaction model introduced by the iPhone. This interaction model will be the dominant for most new devices in 2010 but the implementation of the interaction model will be fragmented due to different handset capabilities and browsers. And not to forget e-readers. Is the Kindle a mobile device? what about tablets? Take a look at this YouTube video, and this digital magazine.


Is this a mobile device? Can you publish your desktop web to these kinds of devices you think? No you can’t. So, fragmentation is still the keyword for 2010 when it comes to handsets and devices.


So what about the 2009-famous iPhone apps? 2010 will be the year of maintenance cost of applications. In 2009 applications have been funded of the marketing budget is my judgement. But that does not make sense for long term maintenance of software stuff. Apps are still important as “app stores” pop up all over that place and some of them are good distribution channels. The mobile web will however be the basis of the most successful applications of those that survive the year of maintenance cost of iPhone apps.

Widgets, the new apps.

Widgets, small web apps running on your home screen, will start to emerge in 2010. We have seen a preview this year already on Nokia N97 for example. Widgets are built on web technology and behave exactly as an application, or even better in most cases. The beauty of widgets is that they are built on web technology; mark-up, JavaScript and css. That means that there is a synergy to what you do on your “general” mobile web presence.

But what about accessing the GPS, camera, address book and all the other cool stuff applications can a website can’t? Well, in 2010 support for HTML5 will be implemented in mobile browsers more widely than today. HTML5 provides many features that will really enrich the mobile web. Offline storage, and many of the features you find in Google Gears, will be implemented. I addition, W3C is working on device APIs that enables access to camera, address book, calendar etc. from the browser. This work will not finish for some time yet, but we see already that for example the iPhone has implemented access to the GPS from the browser.

The mobile operators role

What is the most popular mobile operator in terms of connecting to the internet you think? It’s Wi-Fi. In US close to 30% are surfing the mobile web over Wi-Fi. In Norway the number is 46%. This change happened mainly in 2009 and will continue into 2010. This means that mobile internet services that traditionally have relied upon value adding services from the mobile operator, such as billing and location will be useless during 2010. Be sure to adapt to how the users use your mobile web offering. Some mobile operators will also start evaluating their need for a mobile web portal/walled garden for their users. Maybe some bold and smart operators will discontinue their current portal efforts as well.

Another evidence of mobile operators loosing power in the mobile industry is that Nokia will not have a presence as usual at the Mobile World Congress in 2010. Further, handset manufacturers will want more control with their handsets, as Nokia with their Maemo, leaving less options for the mobile operators.

Mobile = Social

I wrote last year that social networks will be big. And they have become! Really big! 25% of all Facebook users are using their mobile. And there are lots of other examples. This is not such strange thing when we know that mobile is first and foremost a social thingy. The lesson is still don’t try to create a social network, join others. I still use the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet as an excellent example of adding value to this service by connecting to Facebook Connect. It is on mobile web we will see “Web 2.0” materialising. The biggest mistake to make in 2010 is probably to NOT include the mobile in new internet projects!

Closing words

From a great and massive report by Morgan Stanley. They put it very well by saying:

Mobile Internet Is and Will be Bigger Than Most Think

And following up with:

Rapid Ramp of Mobile Internet Usage Will be a Boon to Consumers and Some Companies Will Likely Win Big (Potentially Very Big) While Many Will Wonder What Just Happened.

About the Author Jon Arne Sæterås

Product Director

Other posts written by Jon Arne Sæterås (40 posts)


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