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Friday, December 11, 2009

Is mobile technology too young to predict?

Mark Bridge writes:

“Leave them alone, they’re just kids”

My word, Anakin Skywalker was a smart boy. Child prodigy. Wunderkind. Genius, some would say, albeit fictional.

But, without the benefit of hindsight (or the Star Wars box set, as many would call it), very few people would have expected him to marry his babysitter, fall into a volcano, turn to the Dark Side and end up looking like the late Sebastian Shaw.

Which brings me to the mobile phone industry. It turns 25 in the UK next month; at least, that’s when Vodafone (and, a few days later, O2 – nee Cellnet) first appeared in 1985. The industry isn’t really a kid anymore... but some of the technology is.

The mobile internet is still pod racing. Mobile social networking isn’t much younger than online social networking – and both are still wearing short trousers. The iPhone hasn’t even built its first droid. (Ooh. See what I did there?)  Anything could happen. They could save the galaxy. They could try to wipe out the forces of good. Or they could end up as Max Rebo.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been thinking about mobile industry predictions for 2010. And it ain’t easy. Sure, there are some pretty safe bets around the older end of the business – the manufacturers, the networks, the dealers – but it’s hard work predicting what the youngsters will do. (That, of course, is why researchers and analysts still have jobs). Twitter’s still small enough to fit all its employees on a bendy bus. What would happen if Google bought it?  OrStephen Fry set up his own micro-blogging service called Fritter?  What happens when location-sharing leads to a well-publicised mugging?

The whole infrastructure, the whole eco-system, the enthusiasm and loyalty of adopters; it all seems a bit fragile at the moment.

So yes, I’ll be making some predictions in a couple of weeks. But – even more than in previous years – the gap between ‘safe’ and ‘risky’ guesses is wider than ever.

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Author: The Fonecast
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