Looking Back And Ahead In 2010 With Chetan Sharma


As we cross into the second half of 2010 amid a searing heat wave, it's time to take a cool-headed look back at the first half of the year to see where things are going for the rest of the year and beyond. Holding forth on mobile trends over the last six months in a new report is prominent industry consultant and seer Chetan Sharma. Here are some of the highlights of his overview:

Tiered pricing proliferates. As predicted, tiered pricing for mobile data kicked off in the U.S. with AT&T ditching its unlimited plan in favor of a two-tiered pricing plan last month. The minimum option, for $15 a month, offers customers 200 megabytes a month. With AT&T making the breakthrough, Verizon Wireless is now saying it may launch its own metered-pricing plan this year as it shifts to 4G technology.

While it may not be welcome news to consumers, Sharma says the major wireless operators' move to variable pricing is actually a good thing. "It will force some discipline and technology innovation to solve the longer-term problem of network congestion. While AT&T got things in motion, market forces will take care of the right pricing and GB (gigabyte) levels in the coming months."

IPhone keeps up the pressure. New data released by comScore today shows Android continues to take market share from competing smartphone platforms, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm's webOS and Windows Mobile. With more and more Android devices hitting the market, Sharma acknowledges it's only a matter of time before Google's mobile operating system outpaces the iPhone.

But besides coming out with new devices that raise the bar, like the iPhone 4, Apple's not-so-secret weapon is its iTunes ecosystem. "With over 150 million billing relationships, it has fostered a great apps ecosystem that others will find hard to replicate entirely," he states.

Always-on access. Younger mobile users in particular increasingly expect to have instant access to content on any device. The latest Pew study on mobile usage shows that young adults (18 to 29) are still the most avid users of mobile data applications (though older adults are catching up quickly). "As such, the mobile industry is scrambling to provide tools and technologies that help the digerati access content at will," noted Sharma. "All this has to be designed and developed against the current network, content, and device constraints and evolution paths."

But the embarrassing failure of Microsoft's Kin phone shows that building devices tailored to the heavy social networking habits of young folks doesn't necessarily translate into success. Other considerations, like device and the data plan pricing, have to be calibrated to appeal to teens and twenty-somethings as well.

Apps vs. the Web. When it comes to the long-running debate on whether publishers and marketers should focus on the mobile Web or apps, Sharma suggests it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. "What matters for the developers is the 'reach' of a certain platform or technology and the 'cost' and 'potential' of that reach," he writes. "For the user, the only thing that matters is what's available on 'their' device. Obviously, the capabilities of the mobile browser will grow over time and it will make more sense to build certain category of applications for the web versus on the native platforms but developers live and die in the present."

App store attrition. By the end of 2010, Sharma predicts off-deck revenue will outstrip on-deck revenues as people buy fewer extra services from operators. Other carriers will follow T-Mobile's example and give up on offering their own app stores altogether.

"On the feature phones and probably low-tier smartphones, operators do have a role to play but perhaps some of it can be outsourced to other app store providers so that they can focus on higher-margin services," he writes. "We are going to see a readjusting of the app stores again in the next 12-24 months with the weaker ones whittling away from the landscape." If carriers get out of the app game, it could benefit from a third-party provider like GetJar, which bills itself as the second largest app store after Apple's App Store -- with 65,000 apps and more than 1 billion downloads to date.

Next story loading loading..