Mobile is today’s most dynamic segment in technology. The smartphone craze and the rise of distribution systems like Apple’s App Store and the Android Market have given birth to a surge in the usage of applications and the wireless web, and the desire for mobile data will only continue to increase as more and more devices — from tablets and cars to home appliances and health care monitors — become connected.
This report explores what the future holds for various segments of the mobile industry, from hardware devices to mobile cloud services and wireless networking. We discuss the roles of the major companies (namely Apple, Google and Microsoft) that have a recurring presence across sectors, as well as the smaller players that stand poised to disrupt.
Just as increased connectivity will fuel the growth of mobile data, so will the expansion of the cloud, which promises access to content from anywhere, anytime. Those undeniable trends will require the emergence of better ways to deliver content to users. The build-out of 4G networks will help, of course, but LTE alone won’t be enough to support demand. So carriers and their partners must increasingly look to off-loading technologies such as femtocells (which route cellular traffic onto fixed-line broadband connections) and Wi-Fi. Compression technologies that minimize the amount of data in applications must continue to evolve, and network operators will increasingly experiment with ways to minimize traffic and tweak their policies and data plans in an effort to maximize revenue while limiting network congestion.
Of course, the industry faces its share of challenges, too. New technologies will emerge for specific applications — many players are investing heavily in NFC-based mobile payments, for instance — but larger obstacles exist in creating the business models and infrastructure to support them.
And important questions remain regarding the operating systems that support all of this activity. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are clearly the two most important platforms in mobile; whether there’s room for another (or even several more) is still unclear. Microsoft hopes to change that with Windows Phone, which will get a huge boost from the tie-up with Nokia, but the OS has yet to make much of a dent since its launch last November. Meanwhile, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry line is floundering in advance of the company’s first QNX handsets, which are expected early next year. And it’s not too early to ask how long iOS and Android can continue to dominate the market: History suggests that incumbent mobile operating systems are vulnerable to a six-year cycle of dominance. In other words, the landscape is likely to look very different in five years than it does today.
As discussions of entire industries often go, this one is not exhaustive, nor does it encompass every single segment in mobile. Rather, it offers viewpoints on the state of some of mobile’s most-talked-about areas today and explores where they will be tomorrow.