Most people are likely saying "good riddance" to 2011. It wasn't a very good year on the global economic front. However, the tech world seemed to weather the world's economic uncertainty better than other industries.
In the mobile and wireless market, the pace of innovation continued to accelerate with the advancement of Google's Android operating system in terms of smartphone market share, the introduction of Apple's iPhone 4S and the company's iCloud cloud offering, and the mainstream adoption of tablets.
If people are optimistic about 2012, it's simply because the next 12 months should be better than 2011, despite these mobile advances. Still, a lot of work needs to be done.
With that in mind, I'm offering a series of predictions about mobile, wireless and cloud computing technologies.
I predict that Apple will launch an iPad with a 7-inch display. It's clear from the tremendous sales of the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet that the smaller form factor is becoming popular, especially for reading content such as digital newspapers and magazines, which often result in the reader holding the tablet in one hand. If a user tries to hold an iPad in one hand on the edge, it feels uncomfortable-but not so with a 7-inch tablet.
I predict that smartphone shipments will exceed feature phone shipments worldwide. It's going to happen at some point during the next couple of years. If the prices of iOS, Android and Windows Phone smartphones drop to less than $100, then there will be no reason for new buyers to purchase a phone without a full-featured operating system.
I predict that Apple and Android will continue to increase their respective market shares in the smartphone market. Both Apple and Google are firing on all cylinders right now, and both are likely to continue to offer products that excite customers. Interestingly, Microsoft is likely to realize significant share of the smartphone market, at least outside of the United States, this year due to its partnership with Nokia.
I predict that tablet sales will continue to rise significantly and exceed 100 million units worldwide. However, I don't see people abandoning their notebooks for full-time use of tablets. That may happen someday, but I see the tablet as the third leg of the mobile stool: one leg for the smartphone, one for the laptop and a third for the tablet.
I predict that cloud-based apps will become a viable market in the same way application stores have become for smartphones and tablets. For example, Apple could create an iCloud store where apps are built for interacting with the Internet cloud rather than just operating locally. A good example would be a multiperson gaming platform but extended to other areas.
I predict that we'll see most Websites create optimized Websites (so browsers on mobile devices will work better) and mobile applications (so good user experiences will be provided for local operation). Thus, we'll have the Web done in triplicate: the original Web, mobile optimized Web and mobile apps. If someone has a Website, they either have a mobile app or are likely building one. It's possible that eventually the number of mobile apps will exceed the number of Websites.
I predict that mobile commerce will still be more hype than reality simply because the infrastructure (terminal readers in retail stores), near-field communication (NFC) and mobile software have not matured to the point that we'll see broad deployments. I predict, however, that some company-perhaps Apple-will make a big splash in the mobile commerce market, allowing users to use their smartphone to select the payment method and then touch their smartphone near the NFC-enabled reader to complete the transaction. It seems obvious that most of us will be paying for most goods and services using our smartphones within 10 years.
I predict that Research In Motion will continue to experience a decline in the smartphone market through 2012. It's a shame that RIM and its BlackBerry franchise are faltering as the company has simply not been able to execute a new strategy to keep up with Google, Apple and Microsoft. RIM may bounce back in 2013, but it will be a tough, if not impossible, thing for the company to achieve. It wouldn't surprise me if RIM gets acquired in 2012 simply due to its decline in market capitalization. Nokia or Microsoft could acquire the company simply to add 70 million subscribers. Or, it could be acquired by Motorola Mobility and as a result become part of Google.
I predict that Windows 8 will be well-received and allow Microsoft to enter the tablet market "from above"-meaning the operating system succeeds on laptops as well as tablet PCs.
I predict that Mac will continue to gain market share against Windows in the laptop market.
I predict that Intel will acquire a company that makes ARM-based CPUs in order to transform itself into a major smartphone and tablet player. Nvidia is one company that comes to mind.