Looking at trends provides us with a view of where the world is heading, and what impact it might have on us in the future, but which trends should we really take notice of?
For example, I was recently in Seoul, Korea, having a sidewalk lunch with executives from the local IT industry.
One of the first ‘trends’ to come up in conversation was the 30% drop in Korean handset export sales for the first quarter of this year. Now, that’s a trend highly relevant to Korea, but is it relevant to us in New Zealand? Do we really care about what’s happened to hardware manufacturers in Korea?
Perhaps the bigger question is ‘why is it happening?’. To answer that you only have to look about you: everybody’s got an iPhone.
Here are some numbers. The iPhone accounted for 16.1% of the global market in the first quarter of 2010, compared to 10.9% the same period a year ago (IDC). In terms of shipments, Apple shipped 8.8 million units, a 131.6% increase from the 3.8 million shipments a year ago. From that, it’s easy to see why Korea’s handset exports are dropping; iPhone market share is increasing. But here is why it is relevant. Mobile phones are now an extension of the individual; they are personal, they allow us to project ourselves beyond our physical space, and bring the world to where we are and relate it to what we are doing right now. It’s about the ‘mobile me’, and mobile trends are all about the individual.
The reason people are buying iPhones and other smart, or converged devices, is they promise to be more than a mobile phone. Apple leverages this in the iPhone: the success story started with a bit of hardware that could be used to make calls, play music and watch video – all the things we like to do. Now, thanks to the growing community of developers, we can do more of the stuff we want to do, when we want to do it.
IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said 2010 looks to be another year of large-scale consumer adoption of converged mobile devices. It’s all about me, being mobile and breaking the bond of being tied to a desktop, laptop or even a telecommunications company if your smart device has wi-fi. Consider this: wi-fi usage continues to grow, increasing 15.8% from last quarter (JiWire), driven by more locations, more wi-fi-enabled devices and an increase in the number of free locations.
Add to this the growing list of mobile Voice over IP applications and you can see why the traditional relationships between hardware vendors and telecommunications companies are breaking down.
The walls are coming down and a battle for ‘application stores’ that serve up both content and relevant applications to the ‘mobile me’ is taking place, independent of the hardware and carrier. For example, Sandy Shen, Research Director at Gartner, said in a statement late last year: “Consumer mobile applications and services are no longer the prerogative of mobile carriers” The Times published the top ten iPhone applications for 2009 and all of them we ‘me-centric’.
According to a recent study from Juniper Research, the market for cloud-based mobile applications will grow 88% from 2009 to 2014. The market was just over $400 million this past year, says Juniper, but by 2014 it will reach $9.5 billion! This is the hot area, and the battle is on. Apple is way out front in terms of applications and content…but watch this space. With Microsoft’s release later this year of Windows Mobile 7, and its huge developer community to back it up, the fun is only just beginning.
Location-based advertising is a really hot ticket. MacDonald’s in Finland participated in a pilot programme for location-based advertising and reported that location-relevant mobile ads resulted in a 7% click-through rate. Of those who clicked through, 39% then used the click-to-navigate option to find the closest restaurant.
Other researchers such as MarketResearch.com and IDC predict increases of 37% compound annual growth for mobile advertising and 65% for mobile commerce, both influenced by the speed of adoption of location-based services.
According to Vital Analytics, a Bangalore-based research firm that tracks mobile trends in India, approximately 10 million urban Indians used their
mobile phones for social networking during the quarter ending August 2009, penetrating 3.3% of urban Indian mobile phone users. Interestingly, 18 to 24-year-olds are almost 50% more likely than the average urban Indian mobile phone user to access social networking sites over mobile phones. This indicates that the young and restless generation is already feeling the need to share whatever they want, whenever and wherever they are.
In the battle for the mobile individual, the trend is all about ‘my content’, and the applications that help the user make sense of the world and have some fun. With the growing adoption of smartphones, devices are now like the plumbing; it’s what you do with them that really counts.
Those who have the content and applications will win out, which is why the lunchtime chat in Korea quickly turned to the subject of how to develop a stronger local software economy in Korea to head off the threat from the decline in hardware exports!