OK, I’m not the first or last exec to tell you where the mobile technology market is heading for 2011. What I do promise is to share some ideas on what will happen that no one expects.
First of all, let’s give it up for mobile content in 2010. Lots of money was finally made in a market that was looking for the next revenue boom since ringtones and premium SMS.
Mobile advertising went from hype to hyper-growth. Amazing what a Google/Apple bidding war will do. Beyond actual ad networks, mobile publishers had their best year to date with several mobile-specific properties even making the top risers of the Google Zeitgiest 2010.
Mobile specific brands made their mark. Apps like Shazam and games like Angry Birds are now part of the global lexicon. These are all mobile-specific products, not just online or traditional tech crossovers.
Will 2011 be more of the same or something entirely new for mobile world?
Here are my predictions for 2011:
1. The mobile browser is the new black. HTML is back and it’s the new app.
Apps helped mobile content go mainstream. Everyone wanted an app and everybody received one. From the smartest smartphone to text-message apps in India, apps have defined mobile in 2009 and 2010, with Apple, Google and nearly everyone else hedging their bets this way.
Expect the app bubble to deflate in 2011 as the mobile web makes its comeback.
Yes, HTML5 is brining app-like UI, design, and interactivity to the mobile Web. While everyone from Madison Avenue to Sand Hill Road tout the app experience, every company behind-the-scenes knows that the app is too fragmented to be THE long-term solution.
Now that consumers are consuming mobile content, they expect an app-like experience; once that experience is replicated on the mobile web, expect more companies to focus there.
Fragmentation is real. The typical business cannot continue to burn engineering, capital and marketing to build platform-specific experiences. The mobile web wins because it reaches the most people and requires the least amount of ongoing update expense.
Don’t get me wrong. You’ll still see an ‘app for that’ for almost any business but the mobile web will be ready for its second coming and will look prettier than ever.
2. Mobile social gaming will expand beyond Apps into the browser.
Following on prediction #1, games will also flock to the mobile web. Many app fanboys will argue that gaming is one of the few categories that fares better as an app than a mobile website. This may be true for certain solitary games, but for social and casual games, the future is the mobile web.
Social gaming requires friends to invite other friends. This is where app-based gaming falls short. Do all of your friends have the same smartphone? No. I bet most of them can access the mobile web. Voila. Now you have a true social gaming graph in mobile.
3. Cuadrados Cuatro? Latinos will define the next great U.S. mobile service
The biggest secret in mobile content adoption is the rise of the Latino consumer. Latinos are embracing mobile at a rate far faster than any segment in the U.S. and finally brands and publishers will wake up.
2011 will see Spanish-language mobile games and more content targeted specifically to this segment, evenly across all platforms.
50% of Fortune 100 consumer brands will run Latino-targeted mobile marketing campaigns in 2011, up from 25% in 2010.
Startups, brands and businesses who identify creative, multi-faceted ways to reach the Latino audience could become tomorrow’s Twitter, Foursquare or Zynga.
4. 2011 – The year of in-content mobile commerce
In 2011, mobile virtual currency becomes a key driver of revenue for mobile publishers and game companies. As carriers begin to build out direct billing relationships with publishers, and publishers establish viable virtual currency ecosystems with seamless micro-transactions, virtual currency transactions will grow 500% in 2011.
There’s really no surprise here but the main challenges to this prediction will be the time it takes for Android and major mobile operators to deliver a robust experience to developers and consumers such as the one that exists on Apple’s iOS. Some platforms will lag but the future is clear and involves bite-sized purchases.
5. Google’s biggest competitor won’t be Apple, it will be Google
Despite a jump in iPhone market share as a result of the much-anticipated launch on Verizon in the first half of 2011, by the second half of the year Android market share will dominate. Google’s biggest challenge won’t be Apple, but rather the growing fragmentation of the open Android platform. Publishers will tier Android handsets and tablets by capability, and increasingly target only the most capable among them.
Google, which is already facing an exodus of execs from AdMob and a non-stop ferry shuttle to Facebook, will need to sustain its momentum of talent acquisition and will make five more mobile acquisitions in 2011 including areas like mobile billing, social networking, gaming and analytics.
2011 will be another banner year for the mobile industry with a keen focus on economic models, infrastructure, the new old platform and emerging consumer segments. Regardless of any points above, there’s no question we’re all in for another crazy ride, so fasten your seat belts.
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