Sunday, January 06, 2013

It’s 2013… what might be coming?

2013 no borderIt seems to be the done thing to do a key trends post at the start of the year. It is something I think about but rather than coming up with my own key trends, I’m going to share MEF’s key mobile trends for the upcoming year. They canvassed their global membership and also looked at the results of their second annual MEF Global Mobile Consumer Survey (9,500 respondents) and have come up with their top 10. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Convenience becomes paramount: convenience will exceed entertainment as the primary mobile content and commerce driver globally.

I don’t think this is new for 2013. We’ve seen an increase in mcommerce in the last few years and convenience is the main factor. The smartphone (or tablet) is the nearest/most convenient / quickest to boot up device to get stuff done. It’s a good enough experience to make the shopping process successful. I find myself squinting at my tiny mobile screen for bargains on eBay, when clearly, my laptop or large tablet would be better for the job, but my phone is nearer and I can’t be bothered to move. I’m guessing I’m not only in this consumer behaviour. This can only get bigger.

2. Shift in Payments: operator billing will be overtaken by other mobile payment systems in developed markets.

This isn’t news to me either. At least not when looking at the UK market. The rise of iOS, Android, apps and mcommerce (as in shopping for stuff that isn’t mobile content) is all being done in the online way which is credit or debit card or PayPal. I have never really understood why operators thought they deserved such a huge amount in revenue share when it comes to mobile payments. The value exchange has never seemed fair to me, even less so now when the web is very real on mobile devices. It’s a tough gig for the operators. They’re losing control and/or money in all areas of the business, or so it seems. We still need them to make the infrastructure work but I wonder how they will create new value in the coming years when mobile payments isn’t it?

3. Big Data will drive mobile engagement: widespread rollout of personalised recommendations and alerts based on context and behavioural data enabled by mobile.

Big Data is the new black for everything it seems. Everyone I know who is in tech, and a lot of those who aren’t, are bandying around the phrase ‘Big Data’. I wholeheartedly agree it’s important but most businesses, even large ones with deep pockets, don’t really understand how to data mine in a meaningful way – at least not yet. Soooooo much data has been collected by our network operators, our loyalty card providers, our banks, our ISPs, our email companies, Google, Facebook, foursquare and more. How do you make sense of it all? So I wonder if the breakthrough in 2013 will be that we’ll begin to understand this Big Data thing better this year and make meaningful business decisions from it rather than the stabs in the dark I’ve seen to date.

4. Trust as a critical asset: consumer trust around privacy and data collection will become a critical asset for apps and brands in 2013.

This was an emerging theme last year. MEF covered this in their Heroes of the Mobile Fringe podcast session in Barcelona (blog post here). Security, data, privacy, trust are all murkily lumped together in the consumer’s eyes. They’re different things, but certainly overlap and these are most definitely very real issues. But they’re not just related to mobile or to tech. What we do in our offline worlds also matters in our online worlds and vice versa. Even the most clued-up of us can get caught out. Cloning is a very real issue and Android is full of holes – largely due to poor implementation by OEMs and lazy app developers. And also down to human nature. Ultimately, if your choice is to get instant gratification from a mobile app right here right now vs. not, the chances are, the average punter, will take a risk and download the app or game. How can you protect someone who is making that split second decision? And how can we track what data is being collected, by whom, when and where does it get stored, how is it used etc.? It is an absolute minefield. How do you correct it if it’s wrong, how do you remove it, what happens with it when you’re dead and buried? This one will run and run I think.

5. Usage Convergence: The dividing line between consumer and enterprise-focused services will melt, transforming the way companies use mobile.

I’m not sure what I think about this one. We’ve certainly seen convergence of devices in that business people have chosen to use iPhone as a business device and BlackBerry as a consumer device so I guess we’ll see something play out here when it comes to services. Anyone else have a view?

6. Growth in health and education services: 2013 will see a significant uptake in the use of health and education services, based on interactive mobile content and device penetration. Growth markets will drive this but also developed markets will complement and develop existing systems.

No question there is investment going into these areas. And where resources go, things tend to happen. This is no bad thing. Health and education are critical to modern society. I can see growth markets driving the education element, I’m yet to know where the drivers are for mhealth services. I’m certainly keeping an eye on both sectors.

7. Crowd-sourcing of mobile content: mass-curation of content, such as large-scale photo integration enabling crowd-sourcing of public events imagery, will emerge as a defining mobile apps category, but will experience scaling issues, including transparency and privacy concerns.

I’ve seen several services try to do this but have been unable to get any kind of critical mass to date. I’m not sure they will. For everyone at a mass event to use the same app to do something is going to be hard unless it’s something we all use already like Googlemaps, Facebook, or Twitter. Would I download an app so I could share a photo to a pool? Erm, no. But maybe I’m just too old for this. I’m also not convinced of the longevity of the app ecosystem. It’s seriously hard to make money with apps and the trend I’m seeing is a move to web and less of a focus on apps. But maybe I’m biased because I forget to use pretty much every app I’ve ever downloaded save for a handful that I use on a weekly, if not daily basis.

8. The March of Multi-Screens: In 2013 much of the mobile ecosystem’s energy will target the integration of multiple connected screens, such as TV companion services, to deliver a consistent and complimentary experience across every connected device. 

Seamless synchronisation seems to be talked about a lot but not delivered that well. Friends rave about how kindle has a seamless synch experience and I know many people would like to see that same attention to detail for other services but we’re not quite there yet. It’s tricky to do, but we will see it as we work out how to do this stuff better. And if our M2M world with our connected fridges and cars is to work, we really do have to sort this stuff out.

9. Third mobile ecosystems: Windows Phone 8, Firefox OS and BlackBerry 10 will make progress globally, especially in growth markets.

There is everything to play for when it comes to mobile ecosystems. I’ve had a play with all three of the above, and they all have their strengths and will appeal to different groups of customers. We have also heard that there’s an Ubuntu phone coming out (not sure why we need one, but hey, what would I know), Bada and Tizen are on the market, and I’m interested to see if Jolla can break through. Nokia’s N9 Meego device was a thing of beauty and maybe Jolla, son of Meego, may make headway. And with news that Samsung is moving from Android to Tizen, the game definitely isn’t over.

10. China is coming: Chinese mobile content and commerce vendors will expand into global markets, but will struggle with the complexities of mobile ecosystems and IPR.

China is most definitely coming. No question. I am most definitely not qualified to comment beyond that. Anyone else care to add anything on this point?

I also read Dean Bubley’s Telco anti-trends for 2013 which also make for an interesting read. 

Comments and discussion welcome.