At the start of every year, I have always tried to give readers of Inside Mobile some perspectives on the coming year-trends that will be important and some insights coming around the bend which you can't yet see. I am really not a prognosticator in that I don't suggest that I have visions popping in my head. I do, however, think that 2011 will be a major year for mobile and wireless. Here are 13 issues that will become important during the year.
1. Operating system wars
It's too early to pick the winners in the mobile operating system wars. While there are too many mobile operating systems, it's too early to see a shakeout because the smartphone market is growing. Growth always masks market corrections. Growth fuels opportunity.
There are over nine major mobile operating system platforms that today all seem viable for the smartphone market: 1) Apple iOS, 2) Google Android, 3) RIM BlackBerry (and its own migration to QNX operating system), 4) Microsoft Windows Phone 7, 6) Nokia's Symbian and 7) Meego (with Intel), 8) HP Palm's webOS and 9) a number of flavors of mobile Linux, particularly in the Asian region.
By 2020, I suspect that there will likely be something like three to four major mobile operating platforms (with my guess that iOS, Android, Windows Phone and webOS may still be alive and kicking). Of course, this has major implications for handset makers, particularly RIM and Nokia who are using their own smartphone operating system. That all may change in the next couple of years.
In either 2011 or 2012 (depending on who's counting), smartphones will surpass both PC shipments and feature phone shipments (in the United States and Europe). This is a big deal because the focus by the entire wireless ecosystem will be on smartphones. By 2020, feature phones will be a small minority as manufacturers (including Apple) will have smartphones with price points under $100 (with a two-year commitment with a wireless operator).
Both Android and Apple platforms will continue to expand, with Apple moving away from exclusive operator relationships and Android expanding into tablets. I'd love to see HP's Palm unit reenter the smartphone race with an exciting new product based on webOS.