Five Mobile Trends I’ll Be Watching

Crystal Ball

It’s been three years since I started working at mocoNews. In that time — I turned my living room into an office, which I sentimentally call mocoNews World Headquarters — I’ve written nearly 3,000 posts, and I’ve met so many people — some of whom had million-dollar ideas and others who were destined to fail. I’ve consumed a lifetime of facts– it’s a shame that I can’t use the crazy laundry list of mobile acronyms I’ve learned to win at Scrabble.

But as the saying goes, all great things must come to an end. I’m saddened to leave mocoNews and my coworkers, but am also excited about the next chapter. I’ll be joining the crew at AllThingsD.com, where I’ll be writing about e-commerce and gaming. As I shift gears, I’m struck by all the mobile stories I won’t be around to write. With that in mind, here is a short list of some of the stories I’ll be tracking from afar.

My motto is “too many stories and not enough time,” so while there is plenty I could add to this list, I’ve limited myself to five trends.

1. Microsoft’s comeback: Remember that the smartphone revolution is just the beginning. Currently, less than a third of Americans have a smartphone, and that’s projected to rise to 50 percent by the end of next year. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) isn’t late with Windows Phone 7 — it’s right on time. Internationally, that’s even more the case. To that end, I’d pick Microsoft to be the third-largest smartphone maker after Android and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) as soon as 2012. Sorry, RIM.

2. Mobile advertising boom: To say mobile advertising is going to grow isn’t exactly going out on a limb — mobile advertising-revenue projections over the past six months have been going up and up. But I’m even more bullish than a lot of other people. In fact, I expect it to start rivaling print-ad revenues, specifically newspaper or magazines, over the next decade. To get a sense of where we currently are, in 2010, $119.6 billion is expected to be spent on digital vs. $111.5 billion for print in 2010. But while it’s all still very nascent, I expect mobile advertising to grab the headlines for the next two years with more acquisitions and more large commitments from brands and advertisers.

3. Mobile won’t save the news industry: I do believe people will increasingly consume news on their mobile devices, whether it’s video or print. But I also think mobile has some inherent challenges in this area, especially in the short term. The costs of gaining a wide audience are particularly daunting for small, often local publications that don’t have deep pockets. I am optimistic that the news industry will figure things out, but I don’t expect the turnaround to come from mobile.

4. The mainstreaming of 4G: Six years ago, I wrote a story about one of the first 3G networks being launched by AT&T (NYSE: T) Wireless and NTT DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM). The phones cost $300 and were the size of a TV remote with a roughly two-inch square display, and RealNetworks (NSDQ: RNWK) was charging $5 a month for a streaming video. Fast forward six years, and 3G is at a much different point. We’ll know 4G is mainstream when consumers truly understand what it’s for, and there are use-cases for it. Tablets will likely be a big part of that. It’s a couple years off, but it won’t take six years this time.

5. Your phone knows you better than anyone else: This trend is a little more squishy, but the pieces of the puzzle are just starting to come together for people to get “relevant” information pushed to them based on their preferences and their locations. Right now, a lot of people are searching and browsing the phone, but expect Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Apple, Facebook, Foursquare — and the like — to balance privacy concerns with ease of use and come up with something people like. I’m not calling it an app because who knows what form it will take in the future. This technology is in its infancy. And if you mix in the ability to pay for items with your phone, the picture gets even more interesting.

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