2010: The Year of Mobile

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.”

Here’s why:

  • 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.

Join the Conversation


  1. Happy New Year Peter. Having just launched http://www.addictivemobile.com you won’t be surprised that I totally agree with this.
    The challenge for brands is to shrink 15 years of online learning ( 95-99 we need a website, 2000 – 05 we need traffic so lets buys some ads, 05 – 09 lets be strategic about online) into 15 months if they are not to get left behind.
    And as we believe the mobile repertoire is likely to be smaller than the online one, there is a real land grab to get your brand a place on the most valuable real estate in the world – the homescreen of your customers smartphone.
    An app is a good start but there is so much more to do.

  2. Peter, I agree with you on the fast adoption of the mobile device. We have not to forget that in many of the Far East countries mobile has been adopted instead of the laptop or desktop device. But the great issue I see is the diffusion of 3G coverage and Wi-fi hotspots: I’m afraid that this may delay the process.
    @Simon: corporations are still struggling with the adoption of the social web and learning about mobile may deliver bad headache.

  3. I am sorry Peter, I have to disagree.
    Except the iPhone (& the Blackberry to a lesser extent), there is not a single sustainable mobile platform that lasts more than 1 year.
    Screen size, amount of pixels, operating systems, software platforms, compatibility. From the figures I’ve got in France, 78% of the mobiles are renewed on a 18 months timeframe.
    That’s a lot!

    How can you amortize a mobile digital platform when everything has to be redone from scratch in such a short period of time?

    The iPhone is the perfect platform, and Android is probably on its way to become one as well in 2010.
    But 2010 = a maximum of 20% of market share for the iPhone & Android platform in my opinion.

    I am betting on 2011 personally.

  4. Branslav – your analysis seems to be short sighted in light of the post; you are focusing on specific devices. To your point Symbian has had a dominant market share in many geographies for years, but why hasn’t the mobile ecosystem taken off?

    If you re-read the post, you’ll see that devices are only one part of the solution. Applications and networks matter greatly.

  5. Peter, I was wondering if you could point us in the way of some resources that would allow us to learn more about this field?

    Haven’t been able to find much stuff simply because smart phone adoption hasn’t gone over 30% yet…

    Can’t wait to see what 2010 will bring.

  6. Stuart – think about the entire ecosystem. Smartphones have been around forever – do you remember when the Nokia 9000 was going to take over the world? You have to put it all together: device adoption, data usage, network availability, carrier subsidies, application existence, developer incentives, complementary products, consumer preferences, and so on. A bit beyond the scope of a blog post, but not beyond a smart company like Simon’s to put together (or Forrester, Nokia, et al.)

  7. What’s really exciting to me is the idea that companies/brands can come up with new and innovative ways to help their customers, on a mobile platform, while also attracting new customers. The Nationwide Insurance Claim app comes to mind. Useful tools on the go are way better than 30 second TV spots, IMO.

    Put me down in the hoping you’re right column. šŸ™‚ I’m pumped about mobile.

  8. Sure.
    However, aren’t applications built on the device standards?
    I worked on the first mobile adserving platform a couple of years ago. We had to test, adapt, downgrade our experience based on the fact that every single manufacturer, every single phone is different.
    In the end, we had to make a short list of 40 devices only, thus covering only 30% of the market. Otherwise the project would have been impossible (or too expensive) to achieve.

    My point is basically: things have changed, a couple of platforms are coming with long lasting standards, but it is far from the majority of the market (at least in France).
    I wouldn’t advise my clients to roll out an advance & expensive mobile platform until half of the market (at least) have come to where Apple is with the iPhone.
    Sustainable long lasting environnement with stable standards.

    Now, let’s talk about networks.
    Again, from various articles I’ve read in France, mobile operators are facing a dilemna.
    The average revenue per user (ARPU) on one side is significantly smaller on 3G bandwidth-consuming service-oriented usage.
    On the other side, the 3G networks are not scalable. If the entire French mobile population was using an iPhone, the network would collapse.
    It means that they need to invest on a large scale hardware upgrade that the ARPU is not justifying.

    Mobile still has a long way to go.

  9. Nice article Peter. I agree. Foursquare, location-based advertising, mobile payments, will all be there in a big way in 2010. I’ve been booked for several speaking engagements on mobile technologies and mobile recruiting this year, and am very excited about all the new technologies that continue to emerge.

  10. I’ve been working in mobile for 12 years now and I will say that things absolutely are coming together to bring about a year that mobile finally gets the attention it deserves. What we need to do is think beyond apps. Apps are great for some utility but every brand doesn’t need an app. For blogs and small businesses, creating a mobile site is easy with tools like the WordPress Plug in and MoFuse Premium. Larger brands need to determine what content and functionality visitors are looking for while mobile and boil it down to determine if they really need an app for every platform or if a mobile site will do the trick. Mobile search needs to improve greatly so that it isn’t like the early days of the internet where you need to advertise your mobile URL anywhere. There are still plenty of hurdles, budget and the economy still playing a role, but it will most definitely be an exciting year for mobile.

  11. Peter,

    Your analysis is brilliant as usual and I very much agree with you not only because all the technical ingredients are now available, but, perhaps even more importantly, because there has been a major shift in patterns of usage and in the mental model of users over the past couple of years. Much of that is to be credited to Apple and the iPhone, who may not be the winner in the end because it does not have the backbone of infrastructure that is needed to reap all the benefits of this wave.

    Once we see the actual rise and adoption of mobile, there is going to be an avalanche of consequences starting with fundamental transformation of in-store behaviors and the start of a relentless convergence between online and offline. That convergence is going to be so strong and so massive that in a few years the very notion of online vs offline will not make sense.

    Exciting times!

    Happy 2010 to you and to your loved ones. Many thanks for sharing such excellent content and giving your reader fantastic food for thought!


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Being: Peter Kim