Friday, 31 December 2010

Three easy predictions for 2011

   ...All of which will look delightfully naïve by late December 2011.

(1) People will consider Microsoft Windows Phones worth having
    Windows-toting mobile phones have never been cool, have they. Everyone's got at least one friend who's got one, but they're always the friend that has to enthuse a little too much about their mobile because it doesn't quite deliver. I remember being quite excited about one friend's XDA, before finding just how clunky it was compared to the ageing Nokia running Symbian I had at the time. A high end smartphone has to be *really* clunky to make the Symbian interface from circa 2005 seem slick and easy to use.
    Windows Phone 7 has changed all that in my view. Sure it's no iPhone, but the interface doesn't make you want to smash the phone in frustration and unlike some earlier Windows Phone offerings it delivers what you expect of it. But that's not the key feature that I think will make Windows Phone 7 cool in 2011.
    The first Windows Mobile phone I ever saw was owned by a friend who is a .net developer. He was excitedly showing his desktop .net  app of the moment running on his phone. It was pretty useless with a tiny screen, but it ran. Because as a Microsoft device it came bundled with the .net runtime, and as a .net developer his skills were instantly transferrable to his phone.
    And there is the reason I think Windows Phone 7  phones will become cool. Apps, and its tight integration of .net. Decent hardware paired with a lot of marketing and a good app store, these phones will sell. And since there is a huge developer community of .net developers who do not need to learn any new skills to create Windows Phone 7 apps, I think that Microsoft will not face the same challenges that Symbian or Bada face to attract developers in 2011, and the resulting high quality apps will make Windows Phones worth having. Not even Microsoft could screw up such an opportunity, could they?

(2) Companies and the media will wake up to the idea that not just the iPhone can run apps
    Am I the only person who is sick of seeing companies, newspapers and others proudly touting their new mobile capabilities with an iPhone app? My prediction for 2011: a chill wind will blow through the marketing departments of the land as they realise that all the cash they spent on that shiny new app isn't going to make them a penny from all the millions of owners of Android and other smartphones who can't run iPhone apps.
    Whether this means that they will start offering a range of apps for different platforms or simply move their app content to in-browser online delivery I wouldn't dare to predict. I'd expect the latter though. Shame it's a little early for W3C Widgets.

(3)Tablet computers will become cheap enough to be given away free
    If you are unfortunate enough to have handled one of the cheap and nasty Android tablets that have appeared in the last few months, you'll know just how nasty they are. Horrible user interfaces on resistive screens, too-slow processors, not enough memory and too-short battery lives. At around about £100, they are a huge disappointment and waste of money.
    But how would you view them if they sold for £50? Too much? How about £25? Or how about free? Imagine, you are a large home-delivery or mail-order business, perhaps a supermarket. You have millions of customers and you want them to be able to access your service with the minimum fuss wherever they are. If only they could just pick up a tablent while they are slumped in front of the telly, go straight to your site and spend their money.
    If you are a nationwide supermarket chain, you have the buying power to pick up cheap and nasty Android tablets from China in shipments of millions for relative pennies per unit. And if by giving away a tablet to each customer you guarantee yourself a massive sales increase, then a free tablet for all becomes a no-brainer.
    I don't know who will be first to do it. Tesco perhaps, to their phone or broadband subscribers. But I'd be surprised if 2011 didn't see at least one free branded tablet in the living rooms of the UK.

    So there you go. I've set myself up for a fall this time next year, but I think these three really do have a chance of happening in 2011. Only sitting out the year can tell me the really interesting stuff I missed.

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