Don't want to burst the bubble, as there is so much potential in always-on location-aware map-enabled applications, but I can't see Foursquare or Gowalla going mainstream this year. They are much more like where Twitter was two years ago. Proof?The 'also visited' section of a UK Trends for Websites search on Foursquare. We like it, no-one else cares. I think the overall rise in knowledge of and usefulness of location-enabled applications will mean that unless a killer app is launched before Q3 then this will be a slow burner (if 1/2m Android v2 handsets are sold before June then the satnav application alone might do it. Other than that I'm holding out for Foursquare turning Glastonbury into an actual competition with the whole festival for who saw the most bands, while Orange turn the festival guide into an AR app complete with on screen menus and pricelists for every food stall).
The year of mobile
Of course it will be the year of mobile. Just like last year, and the year before that. But more so. The iPhone has revolutionised not just the mobile market, but overall technology (ie communications, entertainment, everything else we use it for). Hyperbole? Well the sales figures agree: Mary Meeker's slide shows the speed of penetration of the iPhone/ iPod Touch compared to the previous fastest growing tech products (and a couple of other big hits from Apple's own categories). And why is this important? Because everyone else is catching up. Google/HTC, Motorola, Nokia, RIM are finally competing in a market that has changed beyond all recognition from the unwieldy backwards mobile landscape of 2006. And they are doing so by providing products that acknowledge that always connected technology based on ease of use and access to entertainment, friends and, well, pretty much anything that you want finally delivers on the promise of the mobile internet. Another lift from Mary Meeker shows the comparative market share and share of the mobile internet by mobile OS. The key stats are iPhone global market share at 11%, and share of mobile internet traffic at 65% - the opposite skew from traditional handset manufacturers RIM, WIndows and Nokia/Symbian. That is revolutionary. It means that using an iPhone means that you will use the mobile internet in a completely different way to someone who doesn't. Also worth noting that Android relative share back in April 09 (so Android v1) is skewed exactly the same way as Apple's - as Android is groing to grow exponentially on much better handests this year this is just as important. And if Nokia's N900, and the expected new releases from RIM and Microsoft are in any way competitive then they will work in the same way too. So yes, the year of mobile will be as true as it was the last couple of years, but for a lot more people.
While mobile applications will carry on growing at exponential rates across more devices, the Google Voice/Apple AppStore dispute shows where apps will start to develop over the next 18 months. As Apple wouldn't allow a web-based phone service in the store, Google rebuilt the app's functionality as a web app. As mobile processor speeds increase and browser functionality improves, websites will be able to do much of what apps can. The rationale for apps will be based on deep integration with the phone's core functions. Anything else will be a bookmark. I don't think that this will happen to any great degree this year as the handset technology isn't there yet, but brands should be asking of marketing-based applications whether they could be better served by a well made site or web app.
A little bit out of my comfort zone on this, but I'm told it'll be ace. I haven't learnt much more since I wrote this
Real Time Search
I'd defy anyone to have predicted the speed with which Twitter took over the British media in the first few months of last year. By summer 2009 Google's search results were starting to look very antiquated: a search engine that could pull up results from 2 years ago when you were looking for a breaking news story? How quaint. And to be fair it didn't take long (roughly $25m) for both Google and Microsoft to access Twitter's (and in Microsoft's case the increasingly public Facebook's) real time stream and start to include them in search results. As Google roles out Caffeine over the next few weeks this will start to have an interesting effect on brands' attitudes to social marketing.
Brands that aren't regularly discussed in social environments have largely tended to avoid showing too much interest in them. In many categories these are brands for whom the internet plays a vital role all the way along the purchase path from research to transaction: ie those who rely most heavily on search results. Google's search algorithm ranked sites based on reputation (of the site based on links) and relevancy (of the content to the search query). As Google becomes able to analyse sites based on their visitors' social graph, this adds a new level of reputation to build into results. The ROI of social marketing? How about the ROI of SEO?
Obviously it is very early days for how Caffeine will affect search results, and the main real time pipe feeding Google results at the moment is Twitter's. For all the hype, actual regular Twitter users are still in the minority. However if Facebook succeeds in convincing even a fraction of its 32m monthly UK users not to change the revised privacy settings it imposed on them last month then this could rapidly start to have a significant impact on how search engines view brand websites (NB. Not Google, as Facebook won't share with them)
The first question that agencies and marketers should ask to gauge how good an idea or a proposal is this year is this: Does it properly integrate Facebook Connect? If it doesn't, you could probably do better. If it doesn't use it at all, you probably aren't doing it right.
Charging for online news
Murdoch's plans for charging for content haven't gone away, but then they haven't got any firmer. I've written a couple of posts on why i don't think it is a good idea, and on how it might work out, and there isn't really anything new to say other than it is definitely happening, and definitely happening this year.
The internet on TV
Considering how far the internet has come in the last year in getting TV onto our computer screens I'm amazed at how utterly difficult it is to do the opposite and far more rewarding job of getting internet TV onto the TV screen. I wrote about this exactly a year ago and thought we'd be a lot further down the line. So Windows 7 came out, Windows Media Center worked great, no-one really used it to run a home entertainment system as they didn't trust a Windows machine to do that; Apple didn't care about Apple TV, LG and Panasonic are still working on release dates for internet enabled TVs, Kangaroo died, Canvas is still a year away. I'm currently trying to build a new TV system so this is partly borne of frustration (and the subject of another post....) but my view is exactly what it was this time last year: the market is backwards looking and stifling innovation. Sound familiar? Music in 2003, Mobile in 2007, TV in 2010. I think Apple are all over this.
Companies to watch -
Currently makers of facial recognition apps that tag your Facebook photos for you, Polar Rose have just recruited a new CEO from the mobile industry. His job will be to make the video below, real time facial recognition technology, come to life on mobiles, and more generally to make computers see. The internet of things is all very well based on data, but these guys are thinking about genuine visual processing.
I've spent a fair amount of time tweeting about TV programmes over the last year, and I'm not the only one. While the main benefits of Boxee are around getting internet content onto the TV screen (their software already does a great job of this for the laptop screen, and the set top box to connect to the TV screen is on sale in the next few months), it also pulls a viewer's social profiles into the TV experience to create integrated social TV. While C4 will get more press when they integrate Facebook Connect across their site in the next couple of months, Boxee is a genuinely new product based on convergent technology that integrates social graphs into the viewing experience.
.... in a way that XBox users will be very familiar with, as Boxee software is based on Microsoft's open source XBMC (X Box Media Center) OS. Which has been integrating social graphs into XBox Live for months. So why a one to watch in 2010? Because Windows 7 was a return to form, and the music and mobile strategies are rumoured to be receiving similar overhauls imminently? No, becuase that is simply keeping up to date with what Apple and Google are up to. Xbox is the big revolutionary play, as from the looks of Project Natal it will do for consoles, in home entertainment and communications what the iPhone did for mobile and computing. Rumoured to be live before the end of the year, this is one to look out for.