Eight resolutions for the new year

mobile2009resolMobile phones have seen astronomical growth, and with the year-to-year increases in use from 2007 to 2008, the industry shows no signs of slowing.  With that in mind, I have a handful of resolutions I’d like to see the mobile phone industry make for itself in 2009.  Some are likely to happen, others quite unlikely.  But all of them would be great steps forward for the industry as a whole. Here are my top eight mobile resolutions for 2009:

Better browsers: The numbers can’t be more clear.  One in ten RAZR owners use the mobile Web on their devices, and over 80 percent of iPhone users regularly use the Web on their mobile devices.  It is high time for all phones, across the board, to be building in full functional browsers.  2009 is the year for this transition to happen.

Flash Compatible: On PCs, compatibility between Macs and PCs is increasingly mediated by turning to a ubiquitous technology.  Flash runs on 99% of PC browsers, and with that compatibility, it has become the development platform of the Web 2.0 era.  As Mobile moves to Mobile 2.0, the industry is in dire need of a ubiquitous, “easy-to-develop-for” middleware.  Flash seems to be the easy answer.

Forget 3G, give me 4G: The United States has lagged behind the rest of the world in mobile network capabilities for long enough.  3G began to see widespread adoption in metro areas in 2008, but the US needs to forget 3G and begin plans for rolling out 4G in 2009.  Just as the Web evolved as the infrastructure moved from dial-up to broadband, mobile needs networks that can support high data activity in order to grow.

iPhone 3D game engine: The iPhone game market has exploded, with over 2,500 titles to date.  Most games aren’t taking full advantage of the hardware’s capabilities.  2009 should see the development of an iPhone game “engine” that will be licensed out to publishers for games, much as traditional console and PC gaming has had.  Ideally, that engine will support dynamic insertion of in-game ads.

Live video upload: Live video broadcast has taken younger generations by storm, with social networks built around the concept, such as Stickcam.  More than the PC, the mobile phone seems the ideal platform for this behavior – the technology just needs to catch up.  Once it happens, trips to the mall will never be the same.

Ubiquitous Platform: Even if there is an adoption of Flash en masse, it isn’t going to be enough.  There needs to be a ubiquitous development platform that will cover all devices and all operating systems at a low level.  Unfortunately, despite the importance to the health of the industry, it isn’t going to happen in 2009, 2010, or anytime in the foreseeable future.

App Stores Everywhere: The iPhone’s App Store has been a huge success with over 10,000 apps available and over 300 million downloads.  Every phone needs an app store.  The smartphone market will have this in 2009: RIM is planning on an on-device centralized store for BlackBerrys, Android already has Android Market, and Microsoft is rumored to be working on one for Windows Mobile.  The irony is that without a ubiquitous development platform, the success of respective app stores is going to be decided by ease of development/portability and potential reach.  The more fragmented the handsets of a particular app store, the harder the development and the more limited the reach.

Mobile Clouds: With battery life and computing power at a premium for mobile devices, the solution for networked or resource intensive apps seems to be mobile cloud computing.  This is a trend that will parallel the move toward the cloud in PCs, but on mobile the effects will be more apparent.  The two clouds will also work together, leading to ubiquitous apps that work across mobiles and PCs.  One great example of what cloud computing can offer mobile is the Seadragon app on the iPhone.  By utilizing the cloud, a device that struggles with images larger than a few megapixels can load up images exceeding a gigapixel with ease.