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2012 Mobile Arena

With almost half of 2011 gone, it's that time of the year when it's safe to place bets or talk about 2012. The best way to kick-start is Mobile. There is no other technology that I can think off, that has taken the lead in consumer market then Mobile. Apple and Google have changed the way we view our mobile devices in such a short time. The hardware has taken a backseat and it's more about the eco-system in general. The months of May and June are crucial for mobile as you get a sense where the industry is heading in general. By this time, Google and Apple have concluded their respective developer conferences. Everyone has a sense as to what the two strongest consumer oriented companies brings to the table. There are "other" companies in to mix which are also vying to get in to this space. So what will the near future hold for next year? Let’s dive in to it.

Apple
Apple has created some great products in the past, and with iPhone4, they have truly designed a top of the line industrial design phone, that has not only a gorgeous screen to lust, but a truly sexy design. I am sure -- iPhone4S/5 will continue that trend. With iOS5 being released, I definitely see Apple - the company to innovate in hardware design and at the same time a company willing to take on the carriers and their cash-cow "SMS". iMessage, more than iCloud is the best way to keep the 200 million devices and counting on your network. Ask Blackberry -- how important BBM was to their growth and a reason for keeping their customers on the same platform. I also see Apple bringing a low-end phone late this year or early next year. They definitely want to be in the space where it will matter the most next year – when the high end spectrum of smartphone won’t be exciting. It will be the mid-market where the growth and the excitement will take place.
iCloud follows the same trend, where they are really tying their customer base to their platform, and I clearly see Apple building a bridge between their Mac users and iOS users. In 2012, you'll see more people buying Macs -- even in the post PC world. To funnel the growth -- I definitely see Apple cutting their profits on Macs, to make it that much harder on consumer to be ever go outside Apple eco-system. The cheapest Macbook Pro at $899 would definitely be a start.
On the software front, Apple will bring more and more native media apps. At some point one will definitely see Apple bring all you can eat movie Movie and Audio streaming to compete it with Netflix.
The biggest fear for Apple is Steve Jobs. I hope this wasn't his last developer conference. I wish to see him for another 15-20 years leading Apple.

Google
Android in a short time has rocked and shocked everyone. It is not only the fastest growing mobile operating system -- but a good one with developers and carriers fairly behind it. Android this year breached the barriers of a pure operating system. I see Google taking it to Hardware and even home automation market. With NFC enabled phones, it is trying to get in to electronic payments - which will be a dream come true. Google definitely is trying to push Android beyond just mobile operating system. I see the trend continuing in 2012. Google today has a lot of services that are not that integrated natively. 2012 is the year when I do feel that Google can start bringing all the pieces together. Their Gallery, Docs, Gmail, Maps - which would be cached on your phone - so that it can work without data will make Android a better OS then what it is today. Also Ice-Cream and Jelly-Beans or whatever they end up calling the letter "J" will get them to their ultimate goal - Android on everything and making it harder on consumer to move away from Google.
The biggest fear for Google is Fragmentation and Facebook and Oracle. Oracle's Java lawsuit looms large on Google and at the same time Facebook is trying to eat Google’s revenue on advertisement -- their sole revenue stream.

Blackberry

I see blackberry becoming a service company in 2012. They will definitely open up BBM for iOS and Android - so that the companies can continue to pay Blackberry for servers and services.
I see Blackberry having just 3 consumers devices; a touch blackberry, a keyboard-touch blackberry bold and the playbook all running Android apps.

Nokia

If the rumors are true --then Nokia's smartphone business is already is owned by Microsoft. What an epic fall for a company, which was a national pride. It's sad that a company which generated 22% of a country's GDP will be sold to someone.
If the Microsoft rumors are false, then I still see Samsung or HTC buying their smartphone business and the low-end phone business eaten up by ZTE -- the Chinese manufacturer. It would be an epic demise.

HP Palm

WebOS is an OS, loved by many - but struggling to get quality products to the consumer.
WebOS will end up on three things in 2012. HP Tablets, HP notebooks and Desktop as the skin on top of Windows and on Printers. I don't see HP devices on phones. It still baffles me, that HTC or Nokia didn't buy Palm!

Windows Phone

This is the most interesting piece of the puzzle. Microsoft is a dark horse and according to many experts residing in Gartner, IDC and other big research houses, see Microsoft having a 35% market share by 2013 and the no. 1 OS by 2015. I just fail to understand how? For Microsoft to get to 35% market share, it has to sell, more than 300 million smartphones -- and this is for a company which had problems selling in 1.5 million phones in the 1st quarter of 2011! WP7 is the coolest OS out there and it's different than anyone out there. With the Mango update in November - I see it being complete. But here is the thing -- it's not only the software and hardware that makes a consumer buy a phone - but it's the entire eco-system. Apps are crucial and Microsoft is having tough time getting developers to develop apps for WP7 platform. What is striking is that most development houses have their hands-full developing apps for iOS and Android and even the new developers are not building apps specific for WP7. Even after the partnership with Nokia - I do not see WP7 getting that numbers as projected by Canalys and Gartner.
That being said - we need more players in order to be competitive and keep Apple and Google to innovate and if Microsoft wants to be the 3rd player - I openly welcome them.

If you look at today's landscape - I definitely see two matured operating system with eco-system in place to dominate the smartphone market for the next 3-4 years. Let’s see how things shape up next year.

Next Article -- Phone Numbers -- Do we need them?

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