Gigaom

A Look Back at Mobile Predictions for 2011


As 2011 comes to a close, I’m thinking ahead to what mobile technology trends I expect to see in 2012. While I formulate those thoughts for a post later this week, now is a good time to see how I did with my 2011 predictions. I nailed some, came close on a few, and as expected when trying to foretell the future, completely missed the target on others.

I like to review these predictions because they help keep me honest with readers, but also because the exercise reminds me to be humble in my writing for the upcoming year: Mobile technology is moving so quickly, I’ll never bat a thousand. Here’s a look back at what I wrote nearly one year ago to the day, along with evaluation of the effort.

IOS AND ANDROID

  • “I do believe (and have since earlier this year) that a Verizon iPhone will at the very least be announced in January. And it’s an even money bet that the iPad will gain the rumored cameras required for FaceTime, too.” —These weren’t too difficult to see coming, but I called them correctly.
  • “IOS will likely see improved notifications in iOS version 5.” —Another winner here, and one of the reasons I actually bought an iPhone in 2011 after abandoning my old iPhone 3GS for Android devices. I’ve always preferred the Android notification method, and Apple improved upon it. Android 4.0 brings back parity in this area.
  • “Thanks to more robust mobile broadband options, I expect Apple to offer iTunes music streaming in 2011.” —I was close, but not quite right. Apple did move iTunes libraries to the cloud, but mainly to store music files, not to stream your library in the traditional sense.
  • “Android phones will come closer to rivaling the user experience of Apple iOS devices, but they’ll still fall short. It won’t matter in terms of platform market share, and more developers will code for both iOS and Android, with a greater emphasis on Google’s platform if pressed to choose just one.” —I’ll call this one partly right, as Android 4.0 does rival iOS, depending on whom you ask and their personal preferences. Developers are mainly focusing on iOS and Google, but more are attracted to the better monetization offered by iOS, even though Google is ahead in market share.
  • “Google will design one stock Android handset for Verizon’s LTE network.” —This was perhaps my most spot-on prediction: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus for Verizon is a flagship LTE phone that’s exclusive to the carrier in the U.S. But I’m still happier that I went with an unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus from overseas: It removes the carrier control from my handset and gives it to me instead.
  • “Motorola Mobility will have a solid first year due to Android phones and tablets, but it won’t see huge growth until it can gain additional large carrier partners and the backing they provide.” —Motorola didn’t gain a large carrier partner, but it did win serious backing when Google announced its intent to purchase the company. Still, I was wrong on this one and didn’t see the Google purchase as a possibility.
  • “The iPad will continue to sell in record numbers next year, but the combined sales of Android tablets will be close behind at the end of 2011. Consumers will still pass up Microsoft Windows 7 tablets.” —The iPad still dominates tablet sales, and by most measures, Android isn’t close behind yet. That could change with Android 4.0 tablets, but I thought we’d see them by now. Microsoft Windows 7 tablets are selling as well as prior Windows tablets—as in “not very much.”

INTEL, HP, NOKIA, AND MICROSOFT

  • “Intel will finally deliver on its Atom effort and get the chip in a few phones, but none will be a blockbuster success. While Android can be ported to Intel’s x86 chip architecture, few will tackle the effort because of investments in ARM technology.” —It was another year of missed opportunity for Intel, as I was wrong on timing this one. In 2012, Intel expects to enter the smartphone game with new silicon.
  • “Intel’s best showing will be in Nokia MeeGo devices. Even with a few available products, the gap between Intel- and ARM-powered handsets and tablets will continue to widen.” —When you don’t have much showing, there really can’t be a “best” showing for Intel. And ARM continues to rule the roost when it comes to mobile chip architecture in successful products.
  • “HP will [introduce] a half-dozen new webOS products: mostly phones, but at least one tablet, too. Even though I expect a compelling interface and feature set, webOS still won’t see a market share higher than 6 percent in 2011 as developer mindshare is focused on Android and iOS.” —The biggest failure on my list, as webOS is effectively dead and gone, having been handed down to the open-source community: a damn shame.
  • “Microsoft’s Kinect product will keep the Xbox a leading platform, and the device will continue to be used for various interface hacks.” —The Xbox 360 continued to be the top-selling console month after month this year. And there has been no lack of Kinect-powered interface hacks demonstrated, including robots that use the Kinect for vision.
  • “Microsoft will officially support the device in an update to Windows 7, and my son will still not be able to beat me in a Kinect game.” —Microsoft added Windows 7 support for Kinect in June. And my son has yet to beat me in a Kinect game. I’m getting older by the minute, though, so I may not be able to replicate this feat in 2012.
  • “Nokia’s smartphone market share will stabilize but not grow beyond 40 percent as cheaper Android phones will flood the market by the second half of the year. The company will continue to tout MeeGo, which will become available in the form of six devices in 2011.” —Even with my own lowered expectations for Nokia, the company—and its smartphone market share—crumbled in 2011. MeeGo has been abandoned as a strategy, so I blew this one big time.
  • “There will be talk of Microsoft buying Nokia, but it won’t happen. Windows Phone 7 on a Nokia device might take place, however, as a short-term trial strategy for both parties.” —Microsoft hasn’t officially bought Nokia, but it did pay the company more than a billion dollars to use Windows Phone in the future.
  • “Microsoft will demonstrate a lighter, touch-optimized platform for tablets by mid-2011 and follow up with products near the end of the year. Research In Motion’s PlayBook will gain enterprise customers in 2011, but businesses will adopt the iPad, and possibly even Android tablets, far more heavily.” —Microsoft has demonstrated a Metro interface that will be used as tablets, but products aren’t yet available. Businesses are favoring iOS and Android tablets over the PlayBook.

SAMSUNG

  • “Samsung will continue to leverage the Galaxy brand and approach with fewer new smartphone models in 2011. Instead, the company will take the lesson learned from 2010: Design one base handset and tweak slightly for carrier customization. The company will sell 17 million or more such handsets as a result.” —The Galaxy S II is that phone, and as of September, sold 10 million units. That was prior to the handset arriving on three of the big four U.S. carriers, so I think I did well on the prediction.
  • “I expect 5 million Samsung tablets to sell next year, in both 7-inch and 10-inch sizes. And while Apple will continue its digital audio player dominance, Samsung will grab a 5 percent chunk of the market currently held by Apple’s iPod, even more if Google Music is available in dozens of countries.” —Again, it’s difficult to find tablet sales data by manufacturer, but IDC suggests Samsung sold 1 million tablets in the third quarter, so I suspect my figure of 5 million for the year is high, pending holiday sales. Samsung was late to market with its Android-based iPod touch competitors, so I’m considering my 5 percent prediction to be wrong.

CHIPS, CARRIERS, AND OTHER TECH TOPICS

  • “Although phones with dual-core processors will make their debut in early 2011, more than 25 percent of smartphones sold by the end of the year will use dual-core chips.” —I haven’t seen data specific to smartphone sales by the number of processing cores, but I suspect I got this right. Perhaps I even underestimated the number of dual-core smartphone sales when you look at the models that use them: Apple’s iPhone 4S, Samsung’s Galaxy S II, Motorola’s Razr, and many other popular handsets.
  • “Smart homes with Web-connected automation will slip into mainstream conversation, but near-field communication will still be confusing due to a lack of mobile payment standards.” —Smart home products are gaining momentum but aren’t part of everyday conversation just yet. NFC for mobile payments is still a moving target for the reason I predicted, which is why I took matters into my own hands with Google Wallet.
  • “Although U.S. carriers will continue to rely on network offload solutions, such as femtocells and more public Wi-Fi zones, at least one carrier will supplement current data plans with a truly metered trial option.” —This prediction was mostly correct until the last phrase, as no U.S. carrier has offered a pay-for-what-you-use data plan.

Overall, I think I fared well, but I’m raising the bar for 2012 because I’d like to have even more accuracy in what to expect. Some of my 2011 predictions may carry over to 2012 because I was off on timing, but I’ll be spending the next day or two focused on my Magic 8 Ball to see what 2012 will bring.

Also from GigaOM:

The Future of Mobile: A Segment Analysis by GigaOM Pro (subscription required)

The Tablet Boom: Great for Wi-Fi, but Not for Carriers

Why Berlin Is Poised to Be Europe’s New Tech Hub

Ten Things I Want From Cleantech in 2012

Five Things HP Must Do in 2012

Tofel is a writer for the GigaOm Network.

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