Phones and laptops have dominated the digital portable device market for some time now - but as user behaviour evolves and people start to carry more than one device, a whole new wirelessly connected ecosystem begins to live and breathe.
Form will follow function as services manifest themselves on specialized hardware such as The Kindle. New diverged devices will surface for the casual consumption of rich media experiences. Tablets will start to appear; while they will initially be approached from a mobile perspective, they will eventually form a new computing paradigm and become the catalyst for a new generation of innovative applications. (Tablets, or netbooks for that matter, are simply examples of a larger trend. Over time this will include other consumer electronic appliances such as TVs, in-car entertainment devices and others.) This model will blend multi-touch, gestures and control keys using all sides of the device. These devices will be two-hand operated, enabling interesting button / touch hybrid user experiences. Built-in wireless and 3G connections will turn these devices into service platforms, increasing monetisation opportunities and holistic convergent service platforms. Initially established around a specific function, the goal will be to expand utility from core use. For example an e-book could evolve to include a web reader. Operators will embrace new devices as their specialisation makes usage patterns more predictable and hence pricing will become more straightforward. These devices will also give advertisers and agencies a larger canvas for creating messaging and content for consumers on the go, breathing life into the category. The size of the devices will also make it possible to extend digital campaigns to mobile with greater ease. It is possible to build several different types of device with a 7”-10” screen - and this may happen. The size fits nicely into any bag and is maneuverable in a mobile situation. Currently web usage from devices like the iPod touch and PSP is huge. This alternative device market is the sleeping giant. (Interestingly, the Admob Mobile Metrics Report (November 2009) shows 36% of iPhone traffic in the US was over WiFi, considerably higher than other devices. Less than 10% of traffic from the major Android devices came over WiFi.)
With billions of pieces of content at our fingertips we risk being overwhelmed by data control anxiety. Search engines don't know us and miss what we really crave. They skim the surface and fail to deliver the ‘Deep Web’ of content we desire.
Social weightings and crowd-enabled filters will emerge and begin to make sense of the ‘soup’. Discovery will become a system as important and powerful as search.
New user experiences for discovery are being built in labs and start-ups around the world. Designed for scalability, and rich in dynamic visuals, ‘people’ are the key, as we start to understand our trusted recommendations.
This operates on two levels - social influence and crowd influence. When you search streams of activity, the results could be ordered not just chronologically, but by how relevant each is to you on your social graph.
The problem with discovery has been screen real estate, but this is being solved using powerful social algorithms. Discovery will become the default experience over time once new visual mechanisms are created.
TiVo is emerging as a unique player in this field, and is moving towards becoming a general discovery engine, particularly with the release of TiVo Search in January 2009. TiVo Search pulls content from television listings and also from the Internet, even allowing you find clips from YouTube related to a television show you watch.
YouTube is becoming social television, and is constantly improving its discovery experience.
Combining Google Chrome and YouTube could form a powerful unit for cached streaming and virtual PVR on people’s machines.
Owners of digital content aren't happy. They make less money than they used to. Creators and producers have wrestled with new financial models with limited success. But micro payments and in-app purchase are creating new hope - as are the rumours of large partners threatening Google's stranglehold on the 'one index' of the web.
Content owners have done app experiments and are now ready to innovate in order to gain a piece of the action – especially as consumers start opening their wallets in the new app economy. The upgrading / premium and 'going-pro' models are a sure winner – and micro payment models will emerge. Apple’s iTunes App store is the platform / digital mall of choice - as well as the best example of a monetisation laboratory. Amazon has a chance to rival them. Solid progress is expected in an Android store provided that binary compatibility is retained. Many other stores will fail due to fragmented mobile platforms and lack of supply as a consequence of fragmentation. New Premium formats will also emerge, and there is a particular incentive to achieve this to fight against music piracy. Apple’s momentum is expected to continue through 2010 because of new deals with content providers and the wide distribution of its devices and significant user base. With enough promising data from first generation iPhone apps, more sophisticated content apps are now being developed. Here, content and utility have been designed for both mobility and casual use. The iPad is a Greenfield for new media and magazine experiences. We will see aggressive efforts to monetize. In-app models, subscriptions and new forms of advertising will emerge. Gifting apps, newspapers and magazines will emerge. The average price of apps will increase as utility improves.
Facebook is the digital social hub. Ignoring it for any business with customer engagement is fatal. If you thought it was big news before, this year this Facebook will not only land-grab the social location game, worth a fortune to any forward thinking marketing exec, but it will also create marketing models to hook inside this world, not selling to users but engaging with them on their level.
The question for service developers is now 'do we create / have a social system at all, or just use Facebook'. Increasingly the answer is just use Facebook. Facebook is no longer a social network in the same way Google is not just a search engine. It's far more. Facebook is people, Facebook has more than 350 million active users, 50% of whom log on every day. 2010 will be the year that Facebook creates a location aware offering and destroys the competition in one swoop. Location as a data metric in relation to people is extremely powerful. With 350M users it doesn't take a genius to see the rewards for business eager to attract local custom. Why market or advertise in a 1000 to 1 ratio when you could have a 10 to 1 ratio? When CFOs start seeing the results, traditional methods will be transformed rapidly. The easiest way for people to discover media is through recommendation and ‘social’ is the strongest form of this. Facebook (internally or through a symbiotic service), will create the new age of digital recommendation marketing and advertising. Users don't want to be sold to, but would they sell to each other? If there are no victims there can be no losers. Facebook is shaping new digital marketing for those like Zynga, EA, Gameloft, Digital Chocolate, and SGN. The essence is not to own the community, but to how to engage with it.
Television hasn't progressed in years. That's because it was waiting for the big one. TV is entering the next phase of its life. As it becomes connected to the web, it becomes social and aware. When premium content is on demand and mashed together with social real time web interfaces, users will flock to these new rich media experiences.
Online behaviour is changing. Downloading has changed to streaming. The need for owning things has shifted to simply needing to rent them. Shortly this will all be much more social. Visual media is the last bastion of solo interaction. Music and words have been shared and social for a long time. TV and film subscription services like SKY and TIVO will connect more into Facebook and Twitter. Hulu will cross country borders. iPlayer will become a social recommendation channel and Boxee will go mainstream. Programmes such as Seesmic Look will make platforms such as Twitter more accessible for first time users, and enable them to discover other people. People have been multitasking online for years, now the same thing will start happening on TV when interfaces that include social systems are integrated into set top boxes, and through operator funded broadband deals. The most progressive players will make these experiences liquid over three screens with each screen having its own unique DNA. Apple will secure large deals with major American studios and the ball will roll very quickly. There is money in this space and everyone knows it – it’s all part of ‘Divergence’ and ‘Discovery’ as already discussed.
The online world and real world are starting to blur. Physical devices link to our online environments and augment information for us to engage with. With cheap new technologies, physical objects are getting connected to systems and networks in the cloud that can enhance our real life and increase our personal relevance online.
The physical world is largely free of digital and the digital world is largely free of location, but digital systems in the real world and location data are changing the way we live. By connecting the two through augmented reality, location aware tags and public space digital experience we can build a richer fabric for interactivity and communication. The real time web, coupled with mobility, sociability, and using crowd wisdom, is the future of communication and service. Leveraging virtual space as related to physical space is the big one for marketeers and advertisers to break. The real world will start becoming richer with more alternate touch points - and the virtual world will become more precise. Google, Nokia, and online social services - fuelled by lots of startup activity and free APIs from feature heavy services such as Google Maps - are driving the movement. 'Checking-In' will become a physical service action, like double clicking. Making places smarter, richer and more engaging is going to be a very dominant topic in 2010.
Mobile operators must transform. It is vital that they leverage next generation portals, aggregate Internet services, provide apps - and they must offer developers access to location, billing and APIs. If they succeed they will become connectors, if they fail they will be nothing more than bit pipes. It is a do or die situation.
The most progressive operators are transforming themselves into connectors already, helping their customers connect anyone to anyone, anything to anything, anyone to anything - all anywhere. However, users are sceptical that this may be just another lock-in strategy. This transformation is driven by the operators’ unique position in the value chain. They are reading a host of service mash-up platforms that connect to their unique value of billing and location. Some see this as the operators’ last chance before they become mere bit pipes. The challenge will be in providing a persistent connection, and their own unique value to create stickiness. Content back-ups, rich sync and remote home management are seen as opportunities. The overall business case is still shaky as it is unclear how to put a financial value on connectivity. Most operators have little in-house R&D competence built in, which therefore creates strong demand amongst the range of platform suppliers. We believe that the benchmark platform is Vodafone 360, which was launched in September 2009. Despite its rocky start it is still the platform to beat. Another factor in the connectors trend is the B2B side of connecting new device types onto the network, like Navigators, e-books, etc. The most advanced examples of new connectivity (such as the Amazon Kindle) provide connectors with steady, predictable revenue streams. Apple’s iPad will be interesting to watch, particularly vis à vis international roaming.
Android is a very large boulder rolling towards the mobile market. The question isn't will Android be adopted by handset manufacturers and operators, but why on earth wouldn't someone adopt it? Clearly Android and Chrome will start to play together in one of the richest multi-platfom OS systems ever.
It’s always the same - if you have the best toys people will want to play with you! Android already attracts 30% of mobile web traffic ad requests in the USA - and it's growing very fast. They have created a service that runs efficiently and impressively. Google doesn't need an ego massage and is happy to white label this uber OS, so any mobile operator can brand and design it as they wish, taking whatever component parts suits them. Android will start to creep into the other arenas we mentioned earlier in the divergence trend. Andy Rubin from Android said: “We are agnostic to the physical infrastructure of the products running the apps. Fundamentally what we are doing here is that we are trying to connect all the products out there. There’s still a lot hard work to do. We need that Marketplace to recognize that an app on a refrigerator is different to the one on a cell phone. Going forward we will enable profiles for other meaningful products which will touch people’s lives.” The relationship between HTC and Google is the one to watch. Great hardware meets great software. It could create a very powerful force in the industry.
Increasingly, cars have powerful computers in them but they have never really been connected to other computers or to the cloud... until now. The car as a new computing platform is taking shape in labs all around the world.
We're very connected to our cars. They are often the most serious single purchase we make in our lives after our houses. However, until now they have been completely disconnected from everything else we own. The mobile phone will start connecting to the car and acting as an identity for the car. For instance, many people might drive any given car, but personal preferences could be stored in one's phone and synced before driving. Seat position, temperature preference, music, preferred routes, calendars, contacts are just a few of the potential personal adjustments that we will see starting to emerge. Premium manufacturers like BMW have APP stores in the works and others will follow with as many adds-on as these manufacturers can think of. Why wouldn't they? Mid-range cars will increasingly come with built-in LCD screens, and high-end cars will feature TV and DVD functions, and even internet access. New paradigms will emerge in the user’s experience of the car. For example, OnStar already enables new forms of vehicle security, such as auto slowdown in the event of theft. Luxgen of Taiwan says that the only way the Chinese can compete in the next generation car industry is through richly integrated IT such as their Think+ system developed in collaboration with HTC. Visteon’s connected car platforms have allowed a new generation of audio and information platforms to be available to drivers, utilising services such as Gracenote and Pandora. Visteon’s platform even includes a novel traffic application based on Google Maps, which includes clickable pictures of live traffic conditions. For a decade, car manufacturers have made integrated control systems like the Mercedes Command System. These systems are complex and embed themselves deep into the cars, providing a wealth of information to the driver. It's time to make use of that information. The Prius visualised energy saving and turned it into a game or at least infotainment. And with its MyFord Touch product, Ford moved the picture even further. All the big players are jumping into this space with both feet and the digitally connected car will shortly be a billion Euro industry.
We humans spend quite some time trying to understand ourselves and we're still not very good at it. Technology is coming to the rescue in the form of a wealth of new services aided by software and hardware syncing that offer new ways of understanding and measuring ourselves.
We are beginning to understand how to collect data, and although we don't really appreciate what we can do with it, some people are starting to get ideas. We carry complex data recorders with us wherever we go as standard now and they have the ability to document a number of things such as; how far we walk, what we see, what we eat, products we buy or perhaps simply like. Smart companies are starting to produce specialist items that we wear or carry with us that interact with our persistent digital devices to give us information about how we are living. This began in the 1980s with Casio watches and now services like Nike+ are upgrading the offering. Devices that monitor sleep to wake you at optimum moments, or tell you to slow down as your heart is being strained are becoming more and more popular. These ideas have been birthed from verticals such as health and finance as these are things which are very personal to us and important, but we will start to see gadgets and services becoming available in the utility and fun categories as well. Look out for kinetically powered devices and controls that attach to the body and feed data via bluetooth and WiFi back to connected devices such as Nintendo DS, PSP and the iPhone. A whole new series of behaviours and user interactions will become the norm - even potentially gesture controls, which could become as ubiquitous as the right click. There will be novel sensor approaches and low power AMOLED displays. This is the new age of flexible divergent devices merging with technologically simple systems and sensors.