Broadband & Location Turning Mobile Into a $1T Business

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Mobile voice and data revenues will create a trillion-dollar global market by 2014 as complementary products such as advertising, applications and web services are built for users on the go according to Gartner. The research firm  also sees continuing device evolution (read: connected tablets, e-readers and the like) but expects laptops and smartphones to continue as the dominant mobile devices for both consumers and knowledge workers. Wireless connectivity is key to this growth, but it’s no longer the sole driver: location — or context, as Gartner calls it — is fast becoming a mobile enabler as well.

In less than a decade, we’ve seen three distinct mobile eras, says Gartner: a past one of devices, the current multi-million dollar app economy era and soon, a service and social era powered by location and connectivity. Helping to take the world into the service era are robust platforms, such as HTML5, that will provide feature-rich web apps to rock our worlds. Linking such apps with context will provide a more personalized mobile experience.

Gartner anaylst Nik Jones notes the importance that location will bring to mobility:

Context will also be a key criteria for the selection of partners. Many mobile business systems will exploit contextual cloud services hosted by others. It will also be a major commercial battleground with powerful vendors such as Nokia, Google, and Apple striving to own the consumer’s context. Context will also be bound up with social relationships and social networks, illustrated today by services such as location-tagged posts to Facebook and Twitter.

As much as wireless broadband has primarily enabled mobile lifestyles to date, the importance of user context is appearing more and more in my conversations with industry sources. Today we’re seeing the simple benefits of location: finding friends or places of importance nearby or ads we may want to see in specific geo-fenced areas, for example. Context and location could drive user interfaces of future mobile devices, build maps of activities we’ve done, and will surely play a big role in augmented reality applications.

Put another way: Maps already provide an interface that’s intuitively understandable by most people on the planet. If such an interface is paired with connectivity and services in the future, context itself could be a bigger driver of mobility than plain old wireless broadband. Broadband connects us to the cloud, but linking our location to the cloud opens up a new world of possibilities.

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