A year from now, we're going to look back on what happened this year and declare that it was finally the "year of mobile."
- Devices. Mobile phones have been getting more sophisticated, as operating systems evolve, batteries live longer, and processors run faster. And it's not just phones - netbooks have been hot and tablets will soon seize the spotlight.
- Applications. Thousands of applications available specifically for mobile experiences that aren't the clunky WAP-based sites of old. These run on more sophisticated operating systems, giving users familiar interface cues.
- Networks. 3G networks might be strained now, but that won't be the case forever. AOL initially strained under the demands of dial-up, but ended up thriving (and then missing the switch to broadband). Wi-fi hotspots have proliferated and you can find a network almost anywhere you go today.
These three areas will continue to progress and if competition keeps prices in check, innovation will continue and we'll be more connected than ever by the end of the year. We've seen interesting concepts in all three of these areas before, but today's overall system has reached a point of maturity making the mobile experience useful, usable, and desirable.
And as consumers get more out of mobile platforms, advertising will follow suit and finally take off. Ads will now become part of the Apple and Google ecosystems, not standalone networks with limited reach.
Other things we'll see:
- A new "hot" skill set emerges. Mobile expertise will be in highest demand with lowest supply - at least in the US.
- Another check box for integrated marketing. First you had to tack on a website. Then it was some social networks. Now it will be a mobile presence.
- More ways to love to hate advertising. The world is going to discover new ways to be annoyed by ads never previously imagined. Will location-based relevance save the day? I don't think so.
Think back to surfing the web on a Treo 650 using Blazer via GPRS or a RAZR using WAP over EDGE...we can look back and laugh about this now. It's likely we'll be feeling the same about Safari on an iPhone 3GS/3G sooner than you think.