Trend #1: Content and commerce transaction revenues will continue to dwarf mobile advertising revenue -- and will come from more off-portal sources. According to Jupiter Research and numerous other sources, mobile content transactions generated more than $25 billion in worldwide revenue in 2008 and is projected to exceed $50 billion by 2012-13. Add mobile commerce to the mix (in Japan, M-Commerce grossed $6 billion in 2007, double mobile content sales) and transaction-oriented behavior will top $100 billion in this timeframe.
Finding and buying content and commercial services will be at the core of operator value-added services and will play an even more important role as operators gradually tear down their "walled gardens" to create open malls where consumers can discover content from an increasing variety of sources.
Mobile advertising, while important, will continue to generate a fraction of overall content revenues even in advanced markets like Japan (where mobile advertising's $1 billion in 2008 revenues was 10% of mobile content and commerce transactions). The biggest advertisers in mobile will be content providers, who will look for better, more targeted promotion tools than PPI or traditional media can provide.
Trend 2: One size doesn't fit all: the importance of vertical search in complementing horizontal Web search. To combat click fatigue and user dissatisfaction with slow, often irrelevant horizontal search results, operators and portals are embracing vertical search in the high-value content channels that drive transactions and will seek more efficient ways to integrate high traffic social networks to help drive sales of wireless data.
No single search solution, no matter how many rivers are harnessed to power its solution, can cover all content sources relevant to mobile users. Operator-branded vertical search solutions will increasingly be paired with horizontal information search powered by traditional Web search engines.
Trend 3: Operators and portals will redefine the paths to "information" versus "transactions" and how results are presented. This redefinition will take place on the phone top, through increasing "widgetization" that will guide users to "Get Info" or "Get Stuff" and at the portal level, where user interfaces will be streamlined to get users to the right search solution (horizontal or vertical) for their needs.
Trend 4: "Search merchandising" will take hold as operators and portals learn how to blend mobile content discovery with broader search behaviors. With billions of dollars of content revenues at stake, operators and portals will not easily cede search to Web search engines and will actively pursue multiple strategies to both engage and neutralize potential competitors. As they do, they'll continue to hone their ability to leverage user profiles, demographic analysis, new PPC vertical paid search programs, and new semantic recommendation tools to present users with attractive, transaction-oriented content choices.
Trend 5: Mobile operators will make peace with the Internet. But they will always want to hold the aces. After all, it's their spectrum that delivers it -- and they will want to maximize value and brand power while improving user experiences. They will enable many new players to drive traffic, from Google to Nokia Ovi to social networks, but will continue to have the last word in how their networks are used.