Before January gets completely away from me, I thought I’d put out some predictions for the mobile software world in 2008. Here’s the obligatory disclaimers – these are my opinions only, and do not (as the movies say) reflect the views or opinions of Ilium Software. Or anyone else. They’re just about mobile software and content, not anything useful like the stock market or lottery numbers. And I’ll freely admit I’m not the best predictor, despite our nice crystal ball with Jeff Hawkins’ signature.
1 – The iPhone SDK will make less of a difference to our businesses (and by “our”, I mean the mobile software companies) than we hope. My guess is that Apple will exercise a lot more control over how apps are installed, made available, and priced than we (again, we being the software makers) would like. Like they did with the iPod apps, I believe that Apple will choose which third-party programs they want to deliver through iTunes, and control the pricing. iPhone apps – especially games – will be popular, but developers dreaming of huge profits and revenues will end up disappointed.
2 – The big mobile software portals (Motricity and Handango) will significantly change, and be less of a presence in software distribution. It’s been clear to me for a while that software isn’t what Motricity (owner of PocketGear, PalmGear and Smartphone.net) is very interested in. For a while, I thought they’d drop software completely, but after thinking more about it, I guess I don’t really believe that. But I do think we’ll see less and less energy and activity on Motricity’s software sites. And while I hope Handango doesn’t follow their example, I’m afraid they will. The smaller software distribution sites like MobiHand and Handmark will try to fill the space that the two bigger companies are leaving, but I doubt that they’ll be able to without getting a lot more backing and resources.
3 – Palm OS will continue to lose market share, to the point where it’s a non-presence. Even its biggest fans among the mobile community seem to have written them off by now, and the company as a whole just keeps making decisions no one understands. I know that there are a few people who think Palm will stage a big comeback like Apple did, but I think that Palm will focus more and more on their Windows Mobile devices and phase out Palm OS entirely. Or just go under. I hope they prove me wrong.
4 – A lot of new mobile software and content sites will launch and then fail. This happens every year, but I think it’s going to be even more common in 2008. Too many people think that mobile software and content is going to be a big new market, and then jump in as a distributor or developer and finding out that being successful is nowhere near as easy as they thought. We’ve seen a number of sites crash and burn, or just fizzle away, and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a lot more. You need knowledge, background and experience to be successful in mobile software. A good idea, even with funding behind it, just isn’t enough.
5 – More partnerships and mergers. I’m guessing there will be more partnerships and mergers among the established mobile software companies. We’ve seen a little of it already – Handmark buying Astraware, our working with WebIS to combine eWallet and FlexWallet – and I think that 2008 will see much more.
6 – Customer support will get worse. I hate this one, but I believe it. More and more of the distributors and resellers are no longer giving the developers any information about the purchasers of their software. So while we (specifically Ilium Software, but I know other companies as well) pride ourselves on providing really excellent support, if you call us and say you bought eWallet through a third-party store and lost your installation file, we may not have a record of your purchase. We’ll do everything we can to try to find it, or help you find your something that proves your purchase, but we won’t always be able to validate a purchase using an email or a name like we used to. The good news is that we do still have the info from any purchase made from through our site (using either our direct or HCE carts), and that will not change, this or any other year.
7 – Web-based apps will become more and more prevalent, for mobile as well as desktop use. This one’s pretty much a no-brainer, but it seems worth a mention.
Looking back over this, it sounds like I’m pessimistic about the future. I’m really not. Mobile software has always been a hard market to be successful in, but we’ve managed it for over 10 years now, and so have several other companies. The mobile area changes quickly, and while it probably has more challenges than desktop or web development, it’s also a lot more interesting and more fun. I’m really looking forward to what 2008 brings.