It's the time of year for mobile industry predictions, like it or not. Sometimes the predictions from prognosticators sound incredibly obvious, but other times they provoke thought and insight.
Bill Dudley's list of 2012 Mobile Predictions seemed as good a place as any to hash out some of these ideas. I picked out several of his predictions to pass along and comment upon, but not all of them.
Dudley is group director of product management at Sybase 365, so he has a vested interest in seeing smartphones, tablets and mobile apps grow, but he also speaks from spending 25 years in building and managing telecom networks. He's from Texas, which helps him speak his mind. His predictions are his, not Sybase's. His record is good, going from 73% to 80% accurate for his past three forecasts in 2008-2010.
Bill: "After significant industry and political wrangling, AT&Ts bid for T-Mobile will not go forward."
Matt: No kidding, Sherlock. The real long-term questions are how AT&T is going to get more spectrum if not from T-Mobile and how it can match what Verizon did in bidding for cable operator spectrum.
Mobile Payments in iPhone and More Android Phones
Bill: "The new Apple iPhone (iPhone 5) will support mobile purchases and NFC technology, creating a catalyst for jump-starting NFC-triggered point of sale purchases in developed markets." He continues: "2012 will be a significant year for point of sale mobile payments," adding that Google/Android will "accelerate mobile payment and purchase capabilities to more devices."
Matt: Yes, NFC in the iPhone has been rumored for a long time, and if it arrives in an iPhone 5 in June, it will give Google and Google Wallet as well as the carriers in the Isis consortium real headaches. Bill's right when he says that Apple already has the App Store used by millions to back its coming mobile payments, so the big question is how Apple will use either hardware or software to make it easy for merchants to work with iPhones and the App Store.
Whatever happens in 2012, as Bill says, "We're not going to be paying for everything with a phone any time soon. It's going to take years and years to displace current payment technology."
Research in Motion
Bill: "Don't count out Research in Motion yet." He adds that RIM will launch several LTE-ready devices and continue to do well in many markets outside of the U.S.
Matt: Bill's right; the U.S.-based media often forgets that there are actually other markets that matter outside of North America. Consumers in Europe and the Middle East enjoy BlackBerry Messenger as much as some enterprises enjoy BlackBerry Enterprise Server security around the globe. But he made his prediction before RIM lost out on using BBX for its operating system name in a trademark dispute and will have to use Blackberry 10 instead. It's a tiny thing in a functional sense, but RIM keeps making symbolic slips that can hurt overall.
Windows Phone 7
Bill: "Windows Phone 7 will begin to make a resurgence in the second part of 2012, partially helped by Nokia devices as well as well as [Microsoft's] Skype acquisition."
Matt: How was it Dan Aykroyd put it to Jane Curtin on Saturday Night Live years ago? Bill, you ignorant...! Bill says Windows Mobile 7 "ain't bad if you've played with it" on a device and I'd have to agree. But Bill is talking about WP7 and WP7.5 Mango moving into fourth place above Samsung's Bada by year's end. Is Microsoft really happy with fourth place? Maybe so, since that means many millions of phones sold. Still, Windows Phone is far behind the success of Android and iPhone and one wonders whether the mighty Microsoft will hang in there for years to come in fourth place or worse. Resurgence? Yes, for now, but for how long?
Bill: "Amazon will not launch a mobile phone in 2012."
Matt: Totally. (I take back what i said about your being ignorant.) I like how Bill put it in an interview: "Amazon shouldn't have a mobile phone. They are already a great channel for Android, so don't screw that up. They are a content company is what they'll realize. Their DNA is selling books, so a tablet is natural progression of that." I'd add that Amazon would just be entering a hugely crowded market with a phone. if the Kindle Fire really catches fire at the end of 2012, then it might be the time to consider launching a phone.
Mobile in U.S. Presidential Elections
Bill: "The top U.S. presidential election candidates will all use mobile engagement to their base and the general electorate as a major means of trying to win votes."
Matt: Given how much online campaigns and texting to mobile devices mattered in the 2008 presidential race, Bill's prediction for 2012 seems pretty obvious. But what he's saying that's different this time is how powerful mobile will be to candidates, with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the past four years, especially among younger voters.
"2012 is going to be the year that if a campaign doesn't do anything with mobile, they're dead," Bill said. "These campaigns need to use the mobile channel as much as possible." He's also warning the candidates not to focus on those mindless robo calls and instead find novel ways to engage mobile users, including with spot polling through mobile apps or SMS.
In summary, Bill believes 2012 won't be "hugely disruptive in mobile, but I do see important evolution." Ditto from moi, except I'd add that 2012 will be hugely disruptive for AT&T if they indeed lose out on T-Mobile.
This story, "Safe Bet: Mobile Stays Hot in 2012, Among Other Predictions" was originally published by Computerworld.