These are the top hottest five topics that we have covered over the past twelve months with the biggest potential for a disruption in both the Communications Industry and in our habits.
1) Mobile Internet, the Internet way.
The iPhone and Google’s Android have revolutionized Mobile Internet in the handset, making web browsing such a cool and better experience that operators have embraced unlimited data plans for the first time, in bundle with these “next-gen” handsets (well, in fact operators did it first with Blackberry for unlimited enterprise email). Downloadable Mobile Apps were already available for Symbian, J2ME, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, but never have they been hotter than they are now on App Store and App Market. The Winners: Apple and Google (and even Blackberry to a certain extent). The Losers: Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Windows Mobile. The short-term winners, long-term who-knows?: The Service Providers that are cashing-in the flat fee Unlimited Data plans, but sacrificing their chances to ever control again the Mobile Internet as they did before.
2) Cloud Computing.
Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Google Apps, IBM “Cloud consulting”, or Google releasing Chrome to run complex apps on the browser at full speed, have made headlines in 2008. Startups such as Animoto run on Amazon’s cloud to enjoy flexible on-demand computer scalability (no wonder Amazon is also an investor in Animoto). The hype is such that these days everything is getting cloudy (or re-defined as cloudy) : GPS navigators face competition from the clouds with Google Maps (maps run on the cloud, with real-time info update and interactive recommendations/ads). Even speech recognition now runs in the cloud with Google Mobile App. The Winners: Google getting us to spend more time online, pioneer Amazon that gets economies of scale, and the IT vendors, such as HP or IBM, that will equip clouds. The Losers: Microsoft, for the moment. SaaS running on a browser make the OS less relevant. The catastrophe of Vista has only help the Cloud cause with enterprises eager to consider alternatives. Microsoft is building huge data-centers and will be a big cloud player too. For the moment, the cloud will put pressure on them.
3) Internet TV.
Hulu has brought national broadcast TV shows to the Internet. YouTube has confirmed the revolution of Internet Video, now well into the mainstream. YouTube not only is reaching agreements with content owners to be an ad-based platform for content distribution, but it has been a huge platform for politicians for the US 2008 presidential campaign, and now for President-elect’s change.gov. Not to mention the new habits of kids to search YouTube for information instead of searching Google. The Winners: All of us that now have virtually unlimited video content, including old-time TV jewels, just one click away. The Losers (yet to be confirmed): Broadcasters that will cannibalize higher CPMs revenues of traditional TV, with much lower CPMs prices in the online world. The effect is still small but innovative models will be needed before the cannibalization goes too far.
4) Wireless Broadband. With HSDPA or EVDO widely deployed, the 3G networks are now beginning to deliver on past promises. WiMAX has also seen in the past twelve months many commercial launches, and will play a key role in emerging markets where fixed broadband is not a financially viable option. The Winners: Mobile Operators that will get an additional source of revenues selling Mobile broadband, and opening the door to Machine2Machine applications taking advantage of ubiquitous wireless connectivity. The potential losers (not yet): Fixed Operators will need to keep fixed broadband ahead in terms of performance, to avoid substitution by wireless. Mobile Operators will lose too, as their hopes to make Mobile Internet different from fixed vanish.
Asus EEE PC has been followed by most laptop vendors (supported by Intel low-power low-cost processors such as ATOM) to bring a new class of 1 kg laptops with less than 9″ screens, ideal to enjoy full Internet on the go. Combined with Wireless Broadband, these low-cost laptops are not only a great companion for road-warriors but also are likely to power Internet access in many emerging countries as an affordable PC solution. The Winners: Millions of new Internet users worldwide, as well as Internet addicts. Flash memory manufacturers. The Losers: High-end lightweight laptop makers, that will face competition from low-end machines with enough power for everyday use. DVD/CD writers and disc makers, with discs replaced by memory cards and the disc writer by a card reader.