It came out of the sky!?
When we visited MWC in February it struck us that never before has the smartphone segment been more conformant in design and look-and-feel factor. Big touch screen, a few navigation buttons, GUI built on home screen with icons and very hard to tell one brand from the other. Traditional differentiation seems to be next to nowhere.
It probably goes without saying that this ‘copycatism’ stems from a clear (and probably sound) reaction to the shock Apple’s iPhone sent to the handset market, and for now that very form factor and look-and-feel is pretty much the way to go if you want to sell phones. But looking forward, we expect to see more attempts at branching out to more innovative ways than “just” creating the next “iPhone-killer” and rather taking jump steps to differentiate the portfolios. And then we don’t mean just further variations in zooming mechanics, screen size and resolutions demonstrated in Barcelona.
So, are there any potential quantum leaps out there? What is the next step?
One potential leap could be the complete ‘cloud based solution’. By cloud based we mean a solution which requires minimum SW footprint and processing power through utilizing “cloud” server capacity for all types of services and applications. This is nothing new and it has been pointed to by several others before (e.g. http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/cloud-based-mobile-market-to-grow-88-12043/) but rarely is any analysis made on the real impact on the device side. Analogous with the thin client concept, the ability to derive a number of advantages both in SW and HW design should open up. Not needing huge memory, processing power could for starters enable new form factors but also potentially increase battery lifetime.
The prerequisites are there. HSPA coverage is becoming close to ubiquitous (and LTE is just around the corner…) so networks should be able to cater for it. The applications market is thriving, with several thousands of developers looking to capitalize on Apple’s, Android’s, OVI’s and operators’ app-stores. The only difference would be placing the applications, i.e. functionality and processing, in the cloud instead.
When and by Whom? We don’t really have a firm answer to that question (yet..), but we are sure it will come sooner than most anticipate and that we will have reason to write about the new wave device explosion in a year or so.