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.

Michael Gartenberg

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.