Following up on a long tradition, this year the Brighthand staff has once again made some predictions for what’s going to come down the mobile pike in the next twelve months.
These cover everything from traditional handhelds, to smartphones, and even UMPCs and MIDs.
In addition, the staff members were asked to really go out on a limb with "Hail Mary" prediction. These are events that could happen, but it would be really shocking if they did.
This will be a year in which the biggest mobile news stories will be about devices running Linux. Early in the year the headlines will be about the iPhone 2 and the iTablet, but Google and the Open Handset Alliance will make the biggest splash in summer and fall with several cutting-edge smartphones running the new Linux-based operating system Android.
With all this hoopla going on, Microsoft will be hard-pressed to draw attention to Windows Mobile 6.1, which will have a some improvements but nothing radical. Still, its licensees (especially HTC) will put out dozens of models that will sell well to businesses and consumers alike.
RIM will break out of its rut and release a smartphone with a large touchscreen in an attempt to appeal more to consumers. Still the majority of its profits (and there will be lots of profits) will come from business-oriented models.
Palm will spend this year laboring over its own Linux-based operating system, but this won’t debut until 2009. In the mean time, the company will release a couple of Windows Mobile-based Treos targeted at business users, but not a single new one running the Palm OS. Instead, versions of the Centro will be this company’s main consumer focus in 2008.
UMPCs and ultra-small laptops will continue to be niche products, though some of them will be successful, like Asus’ Eee PC.
Another niche class of products that will nevertheless attract a loyal following is the Mobile Internet Device (MID). These will be similar to the Nokia N800 and N810: small Linux-based handhelds designed primarily to give users mobile access to the Web. Expect a variety of these to debut throughout the year, including a new Internet Tablet with WiMax from Nokia.
Hail Mary Prediction: Palm will release a traditional handheld this year.
The Android platform will start coming out with hardware, and will almost immediately make a very respectable niche for itself among smartphone users, particularly consumers who can benefit from the broad integration of Google’s many services.
Palm, on the other hand, will continue to string out the Garnet OS for another year, releasing a couple of Garnet-based Treo or Centro models that, aside from minor tweaks, aren’t really all that different in specs than their predecessors. Sales of these devices will suffer as a result, and most of Palm’s sales will be Windows Mobile based by the year’s end.
HTC will continue to do well, but the dark horse candidate of the year is Samsung.
Sprint will go ahead with its Xohm WiMax service, and net a good bit of early adopter and enterprise business. This will be enhanced when buzz starts to circulate about possible multimedia devices with built-in WiMax for over-the-air streaming and downloads, and other consumer hardware integration.
T-Mobile will finally start to deploy 3G, but its rollout will be lackluster at best, and it will lose a great deal of its high-end business to AT&T and Sprint.
With the advent of fast wireless Internet connections like WiMax, we may see voice connectivity make the same transition that GPS has in 2007: included in devices as an optional feature, rather than having models designed entirely around it.
"Traditional" handhelds will continue to exist, morphing into new lives as big-screen media devices and Internet tablets, possibly resulting in "fusion" devices late in the year: a kind of hybrid between the iPod Touch and Nokia N-series ethos, with WiMax as the source of connectivity, and a VoIP option. This presages a "whole life" device, where navigation, reference, media, calls, browsing, and a dozen other things are brought together in a way that finally lets mainstream users climb on board.
Hail Mary Prediction: Palm’s trading its cash reserve for debt backfires when the company’s slide into unprofitability continues, forcing it to declare bankruptcy late in the year.
This will be a year where connected services will make the biggest splash. Companies such as Google and Nokia will have a field day with releasing applications and services that will further connect us to aspects of our mobile/digital lives. I do think that a company will come out of left field with something that will be akin to Twitter in its use, and this will be the biggest hit in this area.
In terms of hardware, I think we will see the first consumer-level fuel cell devices, and possibly a few more models that push the use of eInk and OLED screens. Hardware in 2008 will be all about making things environmentally conscious, and companies will start out in April with making such marketing drives.
Handhelds will continue to lose ground in terms of consumer focus — there will be a much more generic business focus to the releases — but they will start to pick up technologies and practices from multimedia players. Look for a few that will be indistinguishable from a low-end UMPC, with a large screen and loads of internal memory, but nothing that will be terribly ground breaking.
Lastly, security will pick up focus this year from manufacturers and service providers as more users are going towards mobile lives. While I don’t think viri will be a big deal, issues of information security will become something that mainstream consumers will begin to take more of a notice of. I expect to see several press releases from major manufacturers where there is some emphasis on their devices and services being secure.
Hail Mary Prediction: Palm is bought by Nokia or Dell by September.