photo © 2006 Steve Jurvetson | more info(via: Wylio)
The US wireless data market has grown to exceed $14B in mobile data services in Q3 2010. It is likely to surpass analysts estimates of $54B this year and will dwarf that in 2011. Subscription rates in the US are nearing 100% and many people are now touting 2+ Internet enabled mobile devices. Tablets have just begun to reach the mainstream and have already experienced 12% growth quarter-over-quarter compared to 1% for the same time period last year.
All of this growth is being driven by new hardware and new software and is pushing the mobile ecosystem into a new era of mobile computing.
Gartner defines the mobile wave as consisting of three major eras:
- The Device Era: This era was when the popularity of phones like the Motorolla Razr was skyrocketing. It was the era when cell phones became truly mainstream as adoption rates drastically increased.
- The Application Era: The application era was largely brought mainstream by Apple’s iPhone and the App Store. This era is characterized by the ability for users to easily purchase unique application to run on their new devices.
- The Service/Social era: The Service/Social era is where we are right now. It’s an extension of the application era but is differentiated by the increasing use of cloud computing and streaming entertainment. This era is characterized by lightweight mobile devices that are supported by infrastructure in the cloud. This is the era that enterprises will benefit the most from as the mobile workforce will have improved access to large databases and computing power.
How Hardware is Driving the Evolution:
Devices have evolved from the Palm Pilot and Razr to the iPhone and iPad. Mobile devices are no longer PDAs and cellphones, they are smartphones and tablets. These devices are always connected and are now more powerful than ever.
Not only have the devices become more powerful themselves, but improved cloud technologies have enabled these devices to leverage the Internet and data centers to access computing power not possible on a mobile device.
A typical example is an application called Shazam. Hold your phone up to a speaker playing almost any song and record 15-seconds of music. Shazam will then take that 15-second clip and compare it to their massive database of music to identify which song you’re listening to. The computing power and database required to conduct that analysis is not possible on a mobile device, so Shazam uploads the 15-second clip to their cloud computers to do the heavy lifting. Then the result is sent back to the smartphone within seconds. This simple example of cloud computing illustrates the powerful possibilities when using a lightweight devices connected to a powerful network.
The above graph shows the explosion of Apple on the smartphone market. Apple’s market share doesn’t compare in units, but in dollars it has become a formidable opponent overnight to the long standing incumbents.
How Software Has Changed the Mobile Ecosystem:
Software is shaping the mobile ecosystem by removing barriers for developers. Cellphones come pre-loaded with typical applications: an address book, a calendar, an alarm clock, and maybe some games. Getting contracts to get your application pre-loaded on a device is still only for the biggest players in the game; however, now anyone (literally) can develop a mobile application and use it personally or upload it to the marketplace for the general public.
This increased freedom and access has enabled developers to create very creative applications. From location aware Tim Horton’s locators to the enterprise ready Citrix Receiver, mobile devices have become far more powerful than the device itself. Ken Rutowski from KenRadio said it best, “Your smart phone is like a fridge, it’s only as good as what’s inside it.”
The Mobile Operating Systems:
*OHA: Open Handset Alliance is a group of 78 technology companies that have worked together to develop the open-source Android mobile operating system.
The fragmentation of mobile operating systems and mobile application marketplaces has been an increasing challenge as businesses try to satisfy the demands of their customers and staff. To combat this, companies have increasingly been building mobile versions of their websites using technologies such as HTML5 to create a mobile experience that works across multiple devices.
At Optimus we work with clients to define their mobile strategy and help them design, build, test, and deliver cross platform solutions. Connect with us to discuss these opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.