2008 in review – revisiting annual predictions

2008 in review – revisiting annual predictions

At the turn of the year, we asked a number of industry insiders to opine on upcoming trends for 2008. Below is the summary of survey. Full results here.



Perhaps, it is time to revisit. Updated comments in italics.

1. Will Google introduce a Google Branded Phone in 2008?

Will it? Won’t it? 44.5% gave it a 75% or higher chance of happening while 40% thought it ain’t happening. GPhone is a temptation Google will find hard to resist though a lot will depend on how various initiatives and partnerships shape-up on the ground. In any case, expect another major announcement in the next 2-3 months.

Opinions were mixed. Given the problems with the ecosystem, delay in launch, and unclear business models, while the probability of GPhone launch has gone up, chances for a 2008 launch remain low. Google would want the ecosystem to give it a shot before deciding to compete with them.

2. Will Google play to win in the 700MHz Spectrum Auction?

Google has played the spectrum chess game effectively. Almost 50% respondents gave it a 75% or higher chance of Google winning the bid. Though expectations are high, Google is unlikely to play to win. Services business is not their cup of tea, they could still fund the Clearwire-Sprint deal but that investment can be spent differently to get better end-results, i.e. mobile ad revenue.

We didn’t believe that Google is playing the game to win, only wanted to be an irritant to his fellow brethren. As expected, they funded the Clearwire-Sprint deal.

3. Will Microsoft launch its own mobile phone?

Unless Google comes out with GPhone, Microsoft will stay content with its operator distribution strategy. 63% of respondents gave it less than a 25% chance of Microsoft releasing their own phone. If GPhone comes out and gets some traction, expect Microsoft to get its “fast follower” strategy into high gear.

I think Microsoft is taking a “wait and see” approach on this one and is likely to come out with something once GPhone is out. Remember Zune.

4. Will Mobile Payments get traction in North America and Western Europe?

Only 9% thought it is a sure bet for 2008. True mobile commerce hasn’t really started in the western world. While there are significant movements, 2008 will just be a “lay the groundwork” year for mobile payments.

Even from “laying the ground work” point of view, we seem to be behind. Number of trials and activity though, expect to see some noticeable launches in first half of 2009.

5. Will WiMAX regroup from its setbacks?

Only 35% gave it a 75% or higher chance (of WiMAX resurrecting itself esp. in the US in 2008). A lot depends on how Mr. Hesse deals with Sprint’s WiMAX business. Indications are there will be a deal with Clearwire to off-load the risks via some external investment (Google?).

Well, Mr. Hesse dealt his hand and now all eyes are on Mr. McCaw – can he deliver?

6. Will Helio survive 2008?

Almost 70% respondents thought Helio won’t make it. Given the flameout of some of the prominent new-generation MVNOs, it is hard to see how Helio will see 2009. It will all come down to how persistent is SK Telecom. Earthlink doesn’t have the bank balance to keep funding this initiative.

Well, majority thought, Helio won’t be around and SKT realized it too and sold the unit to Virgin Mobile. At least, it didn’t have to file chapter 11.

7. Will Verizon truly open-up its garden for third-party visitations?

Only 5% thought it is a sure bet for 2008. Verizon’s open posturing was more to ward off any regulators and to improve its image. There is unlikely to be any meaningful progress on this front this year.

Hardly anyone thought that VZ is serious and not much has happened on that front just yet.

8. Will 2008 be the inflection year for Mobile Advertising?

42% gave Mobile Advertising a 75% or higher chance for rapid growth. Market will mature, more consolidation, some privacy gaffes but overall things are looking up for mobile advertising.

There is definitely growth in the Mobile Advertising segment. Inflection point is in the eyes of the beholder. I say, we will make pretty good progress this year but mobile ad spend will still be < 1% of the overall mix. Still lots of foundation work need to be done by the industry. Almost every serious carrier, advertiser, agency, middleware, online player is involved in mobile advertising and it is just a matter of time before things get sorted out.

9. Will Femto-Cells gain any significant momentum in 2008?

It will be an introduction and experimentation year, so no significant traction is expected. Over 52% thought Femto-Cells will be just a buzz word in 2008.

Well, Sprint launched Femto-Cells but it will be a while before they become pervasive.

10. Will Nokia be able to extract iPhone-style rev-share from carriers in 2008?

Less than 20% thought Nokia will be able to do an Apple when it comes to rev-share arrangements. For OEMs, going direct to the consumers was considered treachery to the sacrosanct relationship with the operators. Until Apple showed up with iPhone. Now, Nokia is putting its services strategy in motion and is building a direct relationship with the consumers worldwide and it has a good shot at pulling it off though it will be a long haul.

Given that Apple prudently reversed its business model, the chances of any other OEM extracting iPhone 1.0 type rev-share are going to almost zero.

11. Will Palm survive 2008?

Only 8% gave it a 100% chance of surviving 08 as an independent entity. It will be difficult for Palm to stay in a status-quo mode. They desperately need a hit device that can give them some breathing room.  Given all the operational and strategic problems the company is having, a sale is likely.

Most thought (including yours truly) that Palm will have a difficult time surviving 08. However, with some of its recent launches have put some life back into the company and it might go on for a few more quarters. The problems and challenges are still quite stark.

12. Will iPhone truly open up?

Over 45% thought iPhone won’t open-up in any meaningful way. Apple has built-up one of the most profitable closed empires in the digital world. Are they about open things up? While the iPhone SDK is scheduled for early 08, don’t hold your breath on accessing the critical native APIs.

Apple’s Appstore is clearly an idea of the best open closed systems out there. If the closed garden is done well with open flowers can flourish. The system still closed but you can access a number of device APIs to make it worthwhile.

13. Will there be more unsubsidized devices introduced in the US market in 2008?

Almost 49% thought we are likely to see another unsubsidized device in the US market this year. Nokia is looking to go direct and some GSM handset manufacturers are likely to entertain the idea of testing the market with unsubsidized devices.

Given that Apple quickly reversed itself with iPhone 3G, we are unlikely to see unsubsidized devices for some time to come.

14. Will Mobile TV move the needle in 2008?

Almost 70% thought mobile TV won’t make much of a difference in 08.Though AT&T is slated to introduce MediaFLO to join Verizon in the Mobile TV services market, lack of devices and better pricing models will hinder wide adoption in 2008. However, downloadable video and VOD content will experience significant growth.

Mobile TV remains plagued with unreasonable business models and pricing plans. Until that is fixed, this will remain a niche hobby for most.

15. Will Android make a dent in handset shipments in 2008?

Only 15% gave it a more than 75% chance this year. It is going to take some time for Android plans to mature and materialize. Don’t see any material impact in 08.

We didn’t think Android will make progress in 08 beyond some minor launches. Even they seem uncertain and 08 is not their year.

We will do another survey towards the end of the year, look forward to your participation then. Thanks.