Bigger Gadgets to Rule Wireless Nets

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Notebook PCs, netbooks and other “connected computing devices” will soar ahead of smartphones to start acting as the main drivers of cellular data traffic within a few years.

By 2014, smartphones and connected computing devices will together generate 87% of all data traffic on US cellular networks, according to a report by ABI Research. Currently, smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone, Samsung’s Windows Mobile-based Omnia, and Motorola’s Android OS-enabled Droid are leading a new surge in data traffic because of their propensity to invite “customer interactivity.”

Over the next four years, smartphone traffic levels will grow at an average rate of 48%. Meanwhile, however, traffic from connected devices like laptops, netbooks, smartbooks and media tablets will grow on average at 90%, meaning that connected computers will turn into the kings of cellular data traffic by 2014.

On the cellular provider side, Verizon will usurp AT&T as the chief carrier of data traffic by 2011, because of Verizon’s “high mobile broadband subscriber base and increasing penetration of customers with Android and similar high data-use smartphone devices,” according to the ABI report.

The Rise of Linux
In a separate report, ABI researchers projected that smartphones based on Android and other Linux OS will outpace the shipment growth of the entire smartphone market in 2010, as a result of the low cost of Linux, its ability to be quickly modified, and its flexible licensing terms.

Linux is “nearly as disruptive in mobile markets today” as it was in server markets 10 years ago, said Victoria Fodale, a senior analyst at ABI.

ABI estimates that Linux-enabled phones will comprise 33 percent of the worldwide smartphone market by the year 2015.

“But although Google has built early momentum, Android is not without competition. Industry heavyweights Intel, Nokia and Samsung recently announced two other Linux-based operating systems, bada and MeeGo,” points out the report.

The ABI analysts also contend that Samsung’s bada — a kernel-configurable platform that can run on either the Linux kernel or a real-time operating system (RTOS) kernel — is easily adaptable to a wider range of devices than just smartphones.

In another report issued this week, analyst group Ovum foreseees challenges ahead for MeeGo, despite its strengths. “MeeGo will effectively combine Nokia’s cross-platform application framework, Qt, [with] the cellular integration work Nokia has done in its own Maemo Linux flavor,” according to Ovum’s report.

Yet for MeeGo to really succeed against existing mobile OS from Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Nokia must manage to convince developers that MeeGo is truly a better cross-platform and cross-device application development platform than the more entrenched OS alternatives, maintained Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum and author of the report.

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