Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Time for another round of predictions. Looking back, it seems that the last time I ran through predictions was in (yikes) 2007! Many (actually most) of those predictions came true. This time, I’m going to expand my predictions to cover the entire mobile industry, and not just text messaging. As Cellit is a full-service mobile technology/mobile marketing company (covering text messaging, mobile web development, and iPhone/Android app development) so too are our predictions. Let’s get to them:
- Symbian will drop from first place to forth in global new smartphone sales. Lacking a competitive operating system, Nokia’s Symbian group will be trumped by Blackberry, iPhone, Windows and Android. Android will also overtake Windows’ position and become the third largest smartphone OS, after iPhone. Symbian will only beat out Palm, and Samsung’s Bada. (Hey, these are predictions people, so I don’t need to back them up with reasons for my forecasts!)
- iPhone app development will curb as companies come back to the mobile web. With over 100,000 apps out there, the novelty of a mobile app will compare poorly to the ROI. Thus, companies will turn to developing robust mobile web sites that support multiple platforms.
- Flash Lite will finally become an acceptable offering. I predict Android will be the first smartphone platform to support Flash, and other platforms will follow (first Microsoft, then Blackberry, with iPhone taking up the rear). This will lead to the next revolution in mobile “apps”, quite possibly more substantially than the iPhone app revolution.
- Bada will fail.
- The Twitter craze will fade. Marketers will realize catering to Twitter followers is a very specific demographic, and will turn their attention towards developing direct relationships, through text messaging or some other means. Hopefully, this will mean less “follows us on Twitter” ads everywhere.
- Text messaging adoption will continue to grow. We’ve only seen the beginning, folks. The power is the network. The more “texters” out there, the more people will want to learn to text. 1.5 TRILLION texts were sent in the US in 2009. Look for another 150% YOY growth. That’s right: I’m pegging 2010 at 2.25 trillion texts.
- Mobile CRM in 2010!. Companies will follow best-of-class leaders (like Chase, GPS Insight, Sam’s Club) in developing SMS-based interactions with their customers. It’s not about marketing anymore! It’s about developing deep relationships with customers via mobile interaction.
- Mobile companies will be top on the list to be acquired. As the economy turns in 2010, acquisitions should continue to be on the rise. Expect to see some of Cellit’s larger competition get acquired. If you had to ask me, I’d say iLoop and Vibes, as both have investors that will need an exit.
- Sombreros will be fashionably worn at the Cellit office. As Cellit continues to grow, we will be expanding further into Mexico, providing a “one stop shop” for North American messaging solutions. I know this probably isn’t pertinent to most of you, but man is this exciting for us here at Cellit! Plus, our sangrita consumption is going to skyrocket. Maybe an opportunity for some of our readers to go long in tomato juice futures?
- POS providers will begin integrating mobile couponing extensions into their offering.Cellit provides a suite of mobile couponing systems, from the Widgit POS overlay, to APIs for integration with mainstream and custom-built POS systems. POS providers will turn to companies like Cellit in the coming year to build the couponing modules directly in to their platform, which can serve as an additional recurring revenue generator for the solution provider.
Well, that’s it for this year. Many will come true, some will not. Regardless, it’s our intention to do our best in the coming year to helpyour mobile predictions come true. If there’s anything we can do, please do not hesitate to reach out. And, if I don’t get the opportunity to speak with you, please have a happy, prosperous and (most importantly!) healthy 2010.
When Vinton Cerf engineered the internet, he devised a system with no core: computers connected to computers over a vast web. No one computer is that much more important than another. Internet traffic–and the various protocols of messages (emails, web requests, streaming video, and more)–all bounce around the internet in a beautiful, decentralized way. Emails from one email server are sent to another email server. Videos are sent from streaming servers all over, distributing the load. Even text messages bounce from our servers to carriers, and then out the air waves to you.
Why is this so beautiful, you ask? Why are you writing about this? It’s beautiful for two reasons: scalability and democracy.
Let’s first address scalability. The internet has no “single point of failure”. With no node being any more important than any other node, if you remove a node (or blow one up in the course of a war), nothing much bad happens. Sure, a few messages might not be delivered, but the internet lives on. This is why the internet will never “go down”. It can’t. It can really only get better and stronger, with more and more redundant connections, increasing its speed and durability.
Now, let’s talk democracy. The internet–in all its beauty–is a very democratic thing. As messages are distributed across this vast web, it becomes difficult (though not impossible) to control the messages being sent and received. The owners of each of these hundreds of thousands of email servers (or IM servers, or video streamers, etc.) have control over the messages stored. Each one would have to work in harmony with the others to control the flow of information in a meaningful way, which is very difficult to do. The internet, in many ways, keeps us honest, and exemplifies the nature of the United States economy: decentralized and free.
Recently, however, there have been some interesting shifts. The biggest of which is Twitter. Many people seem to think of Twitter as another standard protocol, like email or FTP. But with a standard protocol, there is no real “owner”. Programmers write servers that send email to other email servers, and the protocol serves as…well, just that: a standard, common language for interaction between the machines. With Twitter, however, there is only one Twitter. There’s one monstrous computer system, called “Twitter”, run by a bunch of people at a company called “Twitter”, in a building (or a series of buildings) leased by Twitter and it’s investors. You won’t find a computer system called “Email”, run by a company called “Email”. You can’t “blow up” email. But could you “blow up” Twitter? Sure. Twitter is a giant step back to a time of centralized systems, single points of failure, and massive (and I mean incredibly massive) amounts of control over the information it stores.
“Massive control over information?” you ask. “Really, David? Get back to writing about mobile technology and stop this nonsense about Twitter. “
Ok, fine. I will. I promise to get back to my normal rants, but please just hear me out on this off-topic subject for just a little longer. I’m almost done, I promise.
When you go to Twitter.com, you’re immediately confronted by a search page. Unlike Google, or Yahoo, or Bing, or whatever, with Twitter, you’re searching…. TWITTER! You’re searching its own, stored, centralized database of “tweets”. On Google, you’re not searching Google! You’re searching the vast web of decentralized information known as the internet.
I know Twitter is not an evil organization. And I’m sure their founders play ping-pong in the rec room like every other Silicon Valley start up. But if it were an evil organization, it wouldn’t have to do much to shape the view of the world around it: just do a “search/replace” on the billions of tweets it stores, and presto: new news. All the news and information in the hands of a few leads to opportunities for control over the democracy.
A more likely scenario is the following: massive (and again, we’re talking truly, truly massive) amounts of data, piling onto servers at an exponential rate, eventually bringing the Twitter servers to their knees, blowing out Twitter entirely. Buh-bye, data!
Or, an even more likely scenario: massive (and again, we’re talking truly, truly, TRULY massive) amounts of data, costing an even more massive fortune to maintain in server farms. As there’s no real revenue model for Twitter. (Have you ever seen an ad on Twitter or your “Tweet Deck”?) Twitter eventually goes bankrupt. So long, tweets!
So, I’m sure by now you’re thinking I’ve finally lost it. David’s totally paranoid and has some crazy anti-Twitter paranoia.
But the real scare here isn’t Twitter. It’s the trend and precedence Twitter sets. It’s the change in course from distributed to centralized, from egalitarian to monarchy, from unbreakable to a single point of failure. Is this the correct direction for so-called “social networking”? There really doesn’t seem to be anything “social” or “networking” about it.
Of course, Twitter is not alone. Facebook is just as bad from a single point of failure or control perspective. If Facebook were to go down (which is less likely due to the fact there’s a fantastic, ad-supported revenue model associated with it), we’d lose massive amounts of information as well; many would say more valuable information, such as family photos. However, the difference is that Twitter portrays itself as a protocol, and Twitter portrays itself as a “search engine” for “tweets”.
I believe the paradigm must shift again, as we look for ways to create truly distributed social networks. New actual protocols will need to be developed, allowing the individual to host their social networking server and connect it to other social networking servers over the web. Text message “un-tweets” will be attached to photos. Photos will be attached to profiles. Profiles will be attached to blog posts like this one. And each one will be stored across the internet in a truly distributed, democratic, and unbreakable way…just like Vinton intended.
Mobile phones used to be just that… a phone that wasn’t tethered to a land-line. Early models came with a duotone screen, an alarm clock, and a four-function calculator. Text messages were unheard of, and the only mp3 players on the market were no-name brands and the first-generation iPod. Drive space was limited to little more than the capacity of the SIM card.
Lately, with improvements in miniaturization enabling us to hit the lower limit of comfortable cell phone size, electronics makers have been trying to cram every technology imaginable into the devices they sell. Today’s smart phones come with a multitouch-screen with millions of colors, camera, mp3 player, GPS, compass, accelerometers, 4GB (or higher) hard drive, and of course, microphones, speakers, internet, and text messaging.
Augmented Realty. For Rent apartment-finding Augmented Reality App written with Layar.
Similarly to how the six simple machines were considered the building blocks of early inventors, builders, and engineers, these phone capabilities have become the basic components of every popular phone application available in mobile stores. Google maps combines the GPS and internet capabilities to provide directions and location information. Shazam uses a microphone, mp3 capabilities, and internet access to identify and locate music. Thousands of other apps use every capability of the phone to meet practically every need available. Applications that don’t combine at least two of the capabilities of the phone are either novelty or incomplete.
One of the most impressive combinations of available technology has been augmented reality applications. Augmented reality, or AR for short, supplies you with additional data as you observe the environment around you. The concept for augmented reality has been around for decades. The head-up display has assisted military and commercial pilots for decades. And now, phones are capable of mimicking this behavior for the average person.
So, what’s needed for augmented reality? Well, for starters, a camera. The camera can see what you see, and provide an image to represent “reality” and augment with additional information. Unless you’re in a very limited environment, you’ll need internet access to pull down information about what you’re looking at. With its narrow angle of view, you need a compass to tell the application what direction you’re facing, and the accelerometers to provide information about vertical viewing angle. The GPS relays location information and pinpoints the location of points of interest. The combination of these technologies allows for a wealth of possible applications.
Despite the diverse mastery of technologies required to make an AR application, two prominent projects have already popped up in iPhone and Android stores. Yelp is credited with writing the first AR iPhone application, providing information about local businesses. Layar soon followed, with a free, open framework for searching for and creating your own AR applications. I took this opportunity to develop an apartment-finding application for For Rent Media Solutions (see picture above). It was easy, fun, and a great learning experience.
There’s some debate on how large this market will grow and what it will mean for businesses. As a pure technology guy, I appreciate the potential that it offers – and have confidence that the sales guys will find opportunities for the technology to provide value to brands.
So what’s next for mobile phones? What other technologies can we cram in there? An RFID reader? Infrared? Improvements in existing technology could bring us in some interesting directions… A better camera could read barcodes, and GPS improvements can provide better detail on your surroundings. Perhaps soon we’ll be able to create a 3-d model of our environment using our phone’s camera and GPS, just by holding up our phone as we walk through it.
We live in interesting, exciting times.
As I leave the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, it is apparent that we who evangelize the opportunities of mobile marketing will not be proclaiming 2010 as ‘The Year of Mobile.’ No, that designation must certainly be given to the current calendar…2009 is, indeed, THE Year of Mobile.
This was outstandingly evident in the conversations within the gaming industry, as major commercial casino enterprises, regional properties and Native American gaming have all begun embracing mobile opportunities. Promotional and equipment vendors were using SMS to interact with attendees. Updates on events surrounding the convention were sent to us, as we moved about the venue. Mobile was conspicuous in many forms. And questions were not “Will mobile work as an effective tool to bring in players,” but more “How can we make it work for our casino?”
Other recent events offer proof that the world of mobile marketing has taken huge leaps forward, even in the midst of the economic meltdown. Just last week, AdMob, the mobile banner network, was purchased by Google for $750 million. As a result, Millennial Media was able to raise $16 million in new capital, which may have seemed a stretch just days earlier.
The adoption of mobile as a marketing tool has accelerated faster than any technology we have experienced…EVER! The chant that ‘Mobile is the future, and always will be’ can now be laid to rest. Today, there exists no wall, no barrier to brands and organizations delivering their message to their most valuable customer.
Yet, the words of Patrick Moorhead, director of emerging media at Razorfish, commenting on the recent acquisition of AdMob by Google ring out, “Brands are the only people who aren’t playing effectively in the mobile space, and this is a wake-up call to clients who says mobile is not a real opportunity, because it is. Google doesn’t get involved in anything it doesn’t think has scale.”
Thus, our roles as evangelizers must now be that of navigators in this newest of media. It is now our charge to guide clients to properly utilize the tools we have developed. We have the technology, we can rebuild marketing. We can make it better, we can make it stronger, we can make it faster! Plagiarized, yes (from the opening of The Six Million Dollar Man TV show, for those readers too young to know)…but that is our charge…that MUST be our new mantra!
The tools are now in the hands of brands to literally reach into the pockets of customers, wherever they are, whenever they see an opportunity! It is not the shotgun approach of mass media, but the pinpoint accuracy of delivering relevant content to each unique customer, giving value in exchange for permission to that most private channel of communication.
The drive to keep mobile BETTER must be constantly on our minds, lest we succumb to the demons that reared their ugly heads in the form of pop-ups, spam, misleading redirects that burden the interactive space. This most personal of all media will only grant access to those that supply relevant content. The precious real estate of the mobile device will not be given to just any snake oil vendor.
The stakes are high, and the user controls the space. One false move and the relationship with the brand will be over with a simple tapping of STOP or END.
It strikes me as well, that last week marked 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, just about the time I got my first ‘cellular’ phone…really, a brick with a handset and antenna attached. No caller ID, no voice mail, certainly no SMS or web browsing capabilities. And what of the other technologies of that time? Well, an IBM Internet mail system powered interoffice communications, but no links to the world outside of the company. Most people thought Prodigy Mall was the entire Internet. And believe it or not, we didn’t even have debit cards yet! Change has come.
Today, marketers have the opportunity to offer me merchandise and services, based on real knowledge of my purchase and lifestyle habits. Not the perceived idea that as a 46 year old male, I must be interested in improving my performance in the bedroom. Rather, real information, knowing that I purchased a jacket last month and may be interested in a great deal on matching slacks. And they can give me the ease of one-click purchase, right from my mobile device, because my size is connected to my customer account. Yes, stronger…MUCH STRONGER than any other channel of marketing.
In talking with a client a few weeks back, the comment was made that the appeal of mobile was the immediacy and accuracy that it offered. For them, email just wasn’t fast enough anymore. And in a family setting, with shared email accounts, it wasn’t targeted enough. They had hit a wall in their strategy.
Yes, a marketer can put an offer in the hands of customers in just mere minutes. It doesn’t require the intervention on an IT department or ad agency. A few keystrokes and the casino’s most valuable players can be alerted to VIP seats at an event this weekend. A shoe store can let a select group of customers know about a fabulous sale for members only…who will, of course, tell all of their friends about the great deals to be found. Faster…so MUCH FASTER than ever before!
Faster, too, must be the speed with which brands enter the market. While we, as consumers, tolerate and continue to sign up for offers delivered to our inbox, the same will not be true of mobile. This personal connection will only be offered to a few deserving brands. If that relationship is not created now, it will certainly be more difficult in the very near future. Marketers will have to go even further with more lucrative offers to gain attention and move a competing brand off the real estate of a device. FASTER…as in no time like the present!
BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER! That is what brands need from the navigators, those of us in the role of mobile technology vendors and consultants – better strategy, stronger partnerships, faster delivery. That is how they need to communicate with their customers – better content targeting, stronger relationships, and faster response. And we have the technology!
BETTER – STRONGER – FASTER! Whether we are vendors in the mobile technology space, brands and organizations offering products and services, or marketing consultants and advertising agencies that support their efforts, this must be our mantra.
And while this is ‘THE Year of Mobile,’ it is not the end. A few brave navigators must continue to sally forward into uncharted waters, developing new tools, exciting uses and opportunities. What will the future hold for those taking up the charge? What will we find at Lands’ End, as we push the envelope? Ah, that is a topic for another day.