Happy New Year! I've never done New Years predictions before but I thought it would be fun to try this year. I believe that 2008 will be a big year for mobile data as large numbers of technically savvy users recognize that mobile phones are full featured, data aware computers. What will 2008 bring to mobile data and browsing? Here are my predictions.
1. Apple will meet their goal of selling 10 million units in the first year. A 3G model will be announced at MacWorld later this month and availability will likely be extended to Japan, China, India, Israel and most of Europe by year end. Still 10 miilion is only 1% of the world handset market. The iPhone will remain an out of reach luxury item for most of the world's mobile users. On the other hand, the effects of the iPhone will be far reaching. Future handsets, at all price levels, will sport larger screens, better browsers and simplified user interfaces. The iPhone web app concept will be extended to include new mobile web services for all phones.
2. Linux handsets will make big market share gains in 2008 but won't become mainstream - yet. Access and Google will launch devices with their respective Linux platforms and Motorola will continue to push Linux down to middle tier smartphones. Palm's new Linux OS should finally ship in 2008 too. Google's Android will generate the most buzz and be the best seller among Linux platforms but it's appeal will be limited to geeky early adopters and it won't achieve the cachet and marketshare of the iPhone, at least not initially.
3. Full web browsers will become a standard feature on most mid range feature phones. These browsers will come from Opera and Access. Nokia, which doesn't have it's own full-web browser for S40, needs to license one quickly or risk falling behind the competition in this feature area.
4. Mobile browsers will generate 100% more web traffic in 2008 as mobile browsing goes mainstream. The iPhone has made the mobile internet respectable and other vendors will further drive traffic by touting the features of their full-web browsers.
5. A new genre of mobile oriented website will emerge. Targeted at full-web browsers rather than traditional xhtml-mp wap browsers, these new sites will carry the full content of PC sites including all images but with layout and navigation optimized for mobile use.
6. Carriers will give lip service to openness but little will actually change in 2008. Change is coming but it will take several years before mobile networks and devices are anywhere near as open and interoperable as they are on the web.
7. Handset hacking and modification will become a major geek pastime as sophisticated users increasingly recognize the computing power in modern phones and become frustrated with the arbitrary restrictions carriers and vendors place on phones. Users will find ways to defeat the requirement that Java ME applications be signed in order to access the more interesting APIs on many handsets. An explosion in the number and power of free Java applications will give feature phones much of the power of smartphones.
8. Non technical users will start to lose their fear of downloading and installing applications from off portal sources, especially outside the US. The US will lag behind Europe and Asia in the adoption of data aware mobile apps because the major carriers, except Sprint, have crippled the Java implementations on their branded phones to the point where they are all but useless.
9. Sprint-Nextel will make a financial turnaround. The number 3 US carrier is losing customers and it's stock price has dropped 50% in 6 months. It might be acquired if the price keeps dropping but I think it's more likely that new CEO Daniel Hesse will actually engineer a comeback. Sprint's 1-RTT/EVDO network is good, the carrier's biggest problem is lousy customer service - something that can be fixed. Hesse has a reputation for innovation and seems to be willing to expand on the WiMax rollout, mobile wallet and free GPS experiments started by his predecessors.
10. Google will be all over the mobile space in 2008 with new products and services. Either GOOG or another new player will obtain nationwide licenses in the 700mHz auction and launch a mobile network. If Google isn't the winner it will partner with either the winner or another carrier to launch a Google MVNO.