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Why 2018 is going to be a huge inflection point for the mobile world

I believe that 2018 is going to be a huge inflection point for the mobile world. Here's what I think we'll see:

Services will gain importance over apps 

Everyone's still looking at the app space and it's still an important space. Watch, however, as competitors ratchet up the pressure on Apple and shift the conversation from devices to services. The biggest push will come from service vendors looking to co-opt the iOS platform. WeChat in China is just the beginning.

Devices such as the Pixel 2 will become less and less important as well, relative to getting people to use services on iOS. Look to services such as Spotify, YouTube TV, and others to see where the money is.

Apple will still be the vendor of cool devices to run stuff on, but it's the stuff you run that will increasingly matter.

Vendors will struggle to differentiate

Not long ago there was a wide variety of phones on the market from a wide variety of vendors. When I first wrote about the Handspring Treo in December of 2001, it was for all intents and purposes the only device on the market.

Then there was an explosion of BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android, webOS, Windows Phone, Tizen, and more.

Now it's all imploded back down to two.

Geeky details of camera specs, screen displays, and gratuitous features will be showcased more and more as hardware vendors look for audiences for their devices and try to capture mindshare.

Mobile and Social Networks United 

Hardware features such as integrated compasses, GPS and fast networks allowed a new breed of applications to emerge, including Facebook and Twitter. More importantly, the 1 billion-plus Facebook users will increasingly rely on their phones for access, and even further rely on ​these services for news. Look for more scrutiny from governments over the role these services play in disseminating information and the impact of that information.

The things we saw this year are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Augmented Reality will Provide New Opportunities

AR will become the preferred method for targeting and reaching customers in ways they have not ever been able to do before.

VR is simply too complex and involved for the mainstream. AR is more approachable and accessible. While AR continues to seek a killer application look for more brands to take advantage of AR to find the next way to attract consumers attention.

Microsoft Will Not Retreat from the Mobile Market

Sure, there's been some stumbles — to put it mildly — but there's no way that Microsoft will get out of the mobile space. With the velocity of the mobile market, change happens every eighteen minutes instead of eighteen months and that it's still very much anyone's game, especially as devices become less important relative to services.

Microsoft's new leadership understands the importance of why it needs to succeed in the mobile space. Look for some very interesting things from Redmond in this space in 2018

Hardware Innovation Isn't Over

Watch for Apple push the device space forward with new hardware innovations. The iPhone X is already a full generation ahead of the competition, and Apple will keep building on it and its ecosystem.

Strong devices will drive service and content aspirations.

Here's to 2018

  As always, my wishes for you for a new year filled with peace, life and prosperity. Happy Holidays, see you in 2018.

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.

13 Comments
  • “Microsoft Will Not Retreat from the Mobile Market” Will not? They already have. It is far too late for Microsoft to gain any traction, the fabled “folding screen running full Windows 10 in your pocket” notwithstanding. MS is totally off the mobile radar, and for good reasons. They have no mobile hardware. They have no mobile OS. No, Windows 10 is not a mobile OS. Even if it comes - which I seriously doubt - it will just be seen as Yet Another Windows Phone. With no apps. Again. Yawn.
  • If Microsoft come back to the market, they'll be creating devices on Android. A Microsoft OS will not take off because it suffers from a paradoxical problem: For developers to create apps for the platform, they need to know the platform is popular. For the platform to be popular, it needs apps.
  • Just because they don't have a viable mobile OS of their own doesn't mean that Microsoft won't be a big player in the mobile space. Their launcher, Office apps, OneDrive and such have made inroads into Android already.
  • Microsoft hasn't left the mobile market. They just stopped making mobile hardware/OS products. They're still making apps/services and that's the point of the article is that things are shifting to the software/services side now.
  • microsoft problem was no google support
  • Didn't Windows Phone support Google services? I think Microsoft's problem was just no app support altogether.
  • Yes, just not very well, and with no native apps other than a few bare bones one. . For example the YouTube app was just a web wrapper (and when Microsoft built their own rather spiffing version Google made them pull it).
  • “Microsoft hasn't left the mobile market. They just stopped making mobile hardware/OS products.” That’s pretty much the definition of leaving a market, when you stop making products. If Apple stops making mobile hardware/OS products, to concentrate on software/services on others’ hardware products, would you say that “Apple has not left the mobile market”? No more iPhones/iPads. Nothing but Safari and garage band on Android? Microsoft has, in fact, left the mobile market.
  • 2018 will be hard year for everyone. apple sure sold a lot iphone X (love it) to fans like me but other people wont spend that much money.
    samsung still great android phone but will struggle with high price and updates
    google will copy apple again but there problem will be deliver great hardware
    oneplus problem will be to find themself what they wanna be
    and for the reset they will face the price nightmare with a lot great devices under 400$
  • Many people see their smartphone as the most important device in their life (be that a good or bad thing), and as such, you'd be surprised how much people are willing to pay. I don't think high price points are going to hinder sales as much as you think.
  • “Microsoft Will Not Retreat from the Mobile Market” Michael, buddy, I know you didn't somehow miss the memo, but WP is in maintenance mode (security updates only), so it's basically dead. They are the new BlackBerry. They will try to eek out a niche for themselves in the mobile space by offering their software to others and MAYBE offer phones with Android but their own launcher and core apps pre installed. That's what I was actually expecting them to do until a few days ago when they announced that the Microsoft Edition of the Galaxy S 8 was NOT a thing at all. So while they technically haven't LEFT the mobile space per se, they may as well have. Blackberry at least has branded hardware, running a hardened version of Android, with their own stuff preinstalled. Microsoft doesn't even have that and it doesn't look like they are going to. What exactly are they bringing to the table that you can't get by just downloading and installing their launcher and apps on any of the thousands of Android devices on the market. Also what services (other than maybe Office) do they offer that don't have equal or better alternatives offered by Google or someone else?
  • "iPhone X is already a full generation ahead of the competition..." It's really hard to take this guy seriously when he makes statements like this...
  • It kind of is in how you parse that statement. If he is taking about the Microsoft connect array in the notch then yeah maybe. Not sure i see that it all that important as it's not good for the back of the phone. If he is taking about the A series of processors than yes they are for sure 1 to 2 years ahead but it's only noticable when doing 4k encoding. Otherwise there really isn't a noticable difference vs a pixel 2. Software is more important than hardware and that is where Google is leading with their pixel 2.