Mobile visions, predictions and stats from MIW 2010

The year 2014 will be an important year for mobile, according to Duncan Stewart, director of technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) research at Deloitte Canada. “By 2014, we cross over. More people will be on the mobile Internet than the desktop,” he said.

Speaking at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio on Day 1 of Mobile Media World (MMW), part of Mobile Innovation Week (MIW) 2010 in Toronto, Stewart presented a few other predictions on the future of digital media and mobile over the next five to 10 years.

The smart phone market will continue to grow, from about 160 million units to roughly 800 or 900 million units over the next five years, he said. But smart phones will not be ubiquitous, as consumers in certain parts of the world will still not be able to afford them.

Roughly half of the phones around the world in 2015 will not be smart phones, said Stewart.

Moving on to netbooks, Stewart said “the key point of the netbook is not that this is going to become the new PC … the key idea behind the netbook is that there is a market out there.”

Tablets will be “a big success,” he said. From a spec perspective, tablets are slightly under a netbook and significantly more powerful than a smart phone, he said.

“The PC is significantly going to be affected at the consumer level, at the enterprise level, the government level and retail business industry … I think this may be one of the most powerful paradigm shifts we will see in the next year or two,” said Stewart.

The iPhone and iPod Touch have “set the gold standard for new device introductions” and the new standard for success is selling 100 million units after three years, he said.

Stewart highlighted the inaccuracy of free online translation services like BabelFish and Google Translate, noting that Google isn’t taking the “classic lexicon plus grammar” approach. The services are running in the 91 per cent accuracy range, but “we need to really get to 95,” he said.

This should change over the next five years, according to Stewart. “In 2015, I think we will have ubiquitous text-to-text translation, not text-to-voice, not voice-to-voice,” he said.

Mobile applications of text-to-text translation include taking a picture of a French menu with your phone and having it translate the menu into English, he said, or snapping shots of street signs in order to navigate your way around Japan.

Will the future bring a mobile OS monopoly player, equivalent to the monopoly that Microsoft Windows has over the PC market? According to a recent Deloitte survey, 43 per cent of respondents “think that Android is going to be the de facto standard,” said Stewart.

But Stewart said he is “not sure there will be a de facto standard,” noting likely resistance from telecommunications carriers and device manufacturers to shift the majority of power to Google.

“Our view is in 2015, there will still be a multiplicity of operating systems,” he said. Android may become the largest, but RIM and Apple will not disappear, he said. Windows Mobile “is not going to be gone” either, although Symbian might.

Assuming that the move to 4G technologies in the next two or three years is going to solve the network congestion problem is wrong, according to Stewart. “Networks of the future will be more congested than networks of today,” he said.

The move from 2G to 3G represented a big leap, but LTE and WiMAX are only “a small step ahead,” he said. Speeds may be 10 to 12 times faster than 3G, but the capacity of the networks is only about six times greater, he said.

“If we have 10 times as many users each using 10 times as much data, a six-time increase in capacity doesn’t mean that in 2015, we are all going to be surfing on 4G at really high speeds,” he said.

Quantum computers are going render all widely used public key cryptography insecure, said Stewart. And those who will be able to afford the $10 million or so for such a device could potentially see “every message that’s ever been sent over the last decade,” he said.

“How do we take all the messages that were sent in 2010 and prevent people from storing them and then unlocking them in 2020?” he asked. 

And while it may be technically possible to recharge phones from the airwaves, Stewart doubts this will have any practical application as it could take “60 years” to charge a phone using this method.

Dragan Nerandzic, chief technology officer of Ericsson Canada Inc., presented Ericsson’s vision of the world in 2020 at the Mobile ThinkTank series, another MIW event taking place across the street at the CN Tower.

Until now, the focus of the mobile industry has been about connecting people and over five billion people are connected today worldwide, he said. “Where we actually see the next target is to expand that level of connectivity not only towards people but also towards devices,” he said.

“Devices will become universally connected,” he said. “Ericsson predicts that by the year 2020, there will be about 50 billion connections in the world,” he said.

These connections aren’t just about mobile phones, PCs and other consumer devices. Ericsson expects the number of devices per person will grow, but this particular curve will be saturated by 2020, he said.

Ericsson’s vision is one of machine to machine (M2M) communication, which means “we can actually start using machines in a way that they talk to each other,” he said. This is the “new leap frog step” and “a major change relative to how we have been communicating in the past,” he said.

The technology enablers for this universally connected world are broadband ubiquity and the declining cost of connected devices, he said.

Nerandzic’s talk on “machine-to-machine networking ecosystems” included descriptions and examples of smart networks, smart services and smart cities. Examples included connected cars and online homes that use technologies such as sensors, smart tags and ZigBee.

Back at the Glenn Gould Studio, Mark Donovan, senior vice-president of wireless and senior analyst at Comscore Inc., presented statistics on mobile market penetration in the U.S.

Android has seen rapid growth in the smart phone market, with its share rising from 2.8 per cent in June 2009 to 14.9 per cent in June 2010, according to Comscore statistics. Microsoft saw a decline over the same period, from 23.5 per cent to 12.8 per cent. Apple saw a slight rise from 20.7 per cent to 24.3 per cent; RIM remained relatively stable from 41.7 to 40.1 per cent; and Symbian’s share moved from 2.8 per cent to 3.1 per cent.  

Comscore’s research, based on data from a three-month period ending in June 2010, on OEM market share for the mobile phone market (not limited to smart phones) finds Samsung in the lead at 22.8 per cent, followed by LG (21.2 per cent), Motorola (20.5 per cent) and RIM (8.8 per cent).

“Although the iPhone gains a large amount of hype, it still only represents 5.3 per cent of total mobile owners in the United States and 12.9 per cent of all mobile media users,” said Donovan.

Text messaging is the most ubiquitous method of interacting with mobile phone users, and games remain the largest category of downloadable mobile apps, said Donovan. Other trends Comscore is seeing is the shift from a fee to free app model. 

Smart phone platform competition is “creating an epic business battle,” said Donovan. He said the war “will not be over” this year and doubts it will be over in 2011.

Stewart’s predictions are not part of, or to be confused with, Deloitte’s annual TMT predictions. 

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.

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