2005: The Year Of The Mobile
I've got a pretty easy prediction to make, 2005 will be the year Americans Get Mobile Phones in a big way. Silicon Valley and the blogosphere is already waking up to this. I saw a post the other day from Dave Winer talking about communicating to others on a hiking trail via Bluetooth. Suddenly the stuff I've been ranting about for years is starting to sink into the general tech populace. This is a good thing.
There's a few ideas out there that still have to die. First is that WiFi is somehow going to be a competitor to mobile networks. It's not. As more and more people have access to higher speed cellular network technologies such as EV-DO or WCDMA, they're going to realize that for most people, these speeds will be more than reasonable to check email, browse the web and stream media from wherever they are on the planet.
The second idea that needs to die is that mobility involves any other device other than the mobile phone. I constantly hear about "multiple devices" as if you're going to be doing much browsing or email on your TV or iPod. You're not. The future market of data services revolves completely around the the mobile phone. The latest estimates are for there to be 2 billion mobile phone subscribers by 2006, and the percentages of those subscribers with access to IP data is growing on a hockey stick curve.
This year you're suddenly going to see a lot more people realize the capabilities of the device in their hands, and start to do some really cool things with it. I have a sense that most things that can be converged into a device have been converged and now it's time to think of the current crop of mobiles as *the* platform on which to build next generation services. Always on, anywhere you go, always with you companion products which enhance your daily life. Think about how GMail, Del.icio.us and Flickr changed how we think about web based apps, and now think about all the innovation that's waiting out there to be done to mobile phones...
This is the stuff that we're going to start seeing this year: When your Mom sneaks a check at her "crackberry" equivalent during Thanksgiving dinner next year, that's when you'll know.
After that, I have only one prediction and that's that the term "smart phone" is going to be picked up by the marketers and slapped on any advanced mobile phone out there. (Remember when the marketers took EDGE and CDMA 2000 1x and called them "3G"?). Look at the phone above, it's the Sony Ericsson S700i. It has EDGE connectivity, a great camera, MP3 player, plays 3D Games, etc. and (a similar phone) will be available from Cingular soon. For most consumers, it's about as smart of a smart phone as you could want. Try it out. Scroll around the menu. There's a file system and everything. No, it doesn't have an operating system (the definition of smart phone usually centers around an OS of some sort) but it's got all the same features as a smart phone, might as well call it one.
The reason I see this happening is that I saw a flyer from Best Buy the other day where some phone had "Windows Mobile Powered Smartphone 2004" in huge letters above some Motorola, and the Nokia 6620 pictured next to it was labeled "camera phone." Well, most manufacturers aren't going to take that crap for long. Especially Nokia. And once the Big N starts labelling their phones all the others manufacturers are going to want to have "smart phones" too! Regardless of whether they're smart or not. I guess they could come up with some innovative term like "Multimedia phone" or "Music Phone" but that's not nearly as cool, is it? Maybe I'm wrong about that (I'm a technologist, not a marketer), but it seems low hanging fruit to me.
The question is now what do I do for my next trick? I mean, if everyone is hip on the whole mobility stuff, I'm going to be preaching to the choir pretty soon, no? I'm going to have to find some new technology horse to ride, aren't I?