As the dust settles into 2014 and we’re in the midst of our Q1 roadmap, we thought we’d share some thoughts of where we think cloud services and mobile are heading, as they may influence how you think about your product, customer needs, or simply the future of the industry.
Smartphone penetration plateaus
2014 is the year smartphone growth will plateau, as we start to see saturation in the market. Apple recently released a more affordable Apple 5C that’s meant for the mass market and Google’s open Android OS has been making it easy for manufacturers to build cheap smartphones for years. The result: feature phone extinction.
Saturation should create opportunities in mobile device peripherals, including wearables. These devices will drive engagement with mobile devices as well as provide a way for companies to differentiate themselves. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch enables users to pick up notifications, control music playback, take pictures, or shoot short 720p movies with its 1.9-megapixel camera. With the smartphone and tablet as the feeders of information (the watch grabs information from Galaxy mobile devices via Bluetooth), Samsung has a hub on which to build useful peripherals.
Other wearables like the Pebble watch or Google Glass are rapidly gaining popularity in Silicon Valley. How quickly they can adapt to gain broad acceptance will determine the difference between being a long term success or the next Segway. Since wearables have been mostly familiar day-to-day accessories (glasses, watches, etc.), we think they’ll have greater success than something that requires greater change of behavior like the Segway.
Cloud services and mobile become increasingly integrated
Mobile users need the cloud. You remember that when you lost your LTE connection and how frustrated you were as you waved your phone around looking for better signal? Yeah, that’s why the cloud is important. While apps have become smarter to support some off-line usage, they need that internet connection to be useful to you.
So why not just build apps that can run on the phone without internet? The cloud provides the convenience of off-device data processing and storage. While smartphones and other mobile devices have come a long way in terms of battery life, processing power, and storage space, the cloud does a lot of heavy lifting that makes apps work like magic.
Mobile and cloud services means we’re connected wherever, whenever. Mobile empowers the cloud, and in return, the cloud powers mobile. For example, location data gathered from your phone is sent to the cloud where it’s processed and returned to your device in the form of useful contextual information about your surroundings. Big data will finally become useful to consumers as mobile and cloud work more closely together.
Enterprise fills the Black(Berry) hole
BlackBerry will be an interesting vendor to watch. 2013 was a rough year for them and with consumer favorites, iOS and Android, flying high from the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, companies will hedge their bets and consider sunsetting support for BlackBerry in favor of other solutions. The question becomes – who will fill the void left by BlackBerry?
More conservative clients who may be in highly regulated industries, like finance, may be hesitant to move to the cloud, though consumer adoption is influencing IT policy. If BlackBerry goes away, that opens up an opportunity for another big player to fill in the enterprise mobile gap.
Part of what’s driving this shift is the consumerization of IT. Consumer influence on IT is a trend that is here to stay. People want to use the same tools at work, that they also use at home. Mobility enables the lines between work life and home life to blur more than ever before. The pressure on IT to adopt more end-user friendly technologies will continue to mount.
Enterprises move towards cloud services despite security concerns
Security in 2014 is not just for IT. Popular internet services like Snapchat and large companies like Target are just the latest in a long list of brand name organizations getting hacked. Consumers are going to think twice about the information they share and this habit will spill over into the workplace as well.
Cloud service adoption within enterprises is going to continue to grow and perhaps hit an inflection point, as companies realize that the benefits of the cloud outweigh the negatives. With privacy and security conversations hitting mainstream media, workers are being educated at home and in the workplace.
We’re seeing a lot of companies adopting Google Apps, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, and many other cloud services. Some are even deploying multiple solutions that solve similar problems (e.g. Dropbox and Box) to meet the wants and needs of various functional groups. With all these services being adopted, IT will need to find a way to integrate them and fully manage everything within its security policies and parameters.
As a result, API platforms and cross-platform services are going to be huge this year. Secure management of this infrastructure will be a big question that will influence adoption.