Predictions Reviewed

It’s that time of the year again. As we move into the holidays, Carlo and I pick ten predictions for the year ahead for your delight and edification. Even more foolishly, we first review how we got on last year, which is unique, to my knowledge. For instance, even professional analysts aren’t that brave as they need their clients to generally believe that they’re right all the time and so to admit to fallibility would be shooting themselves in the foot.

We have no such qualms as it’s more a bit of fun and ultimately an exercise in showing just how hard making predictions is – if not impossible.

The impossibility of predictions is one of the subjects of my most interesting read of the year, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. One of his examples is if say, a US General had successfully predicted 9/11 and thrown up a huge air cordon around the twin towers, the terrorists wouldn’t have tried to attack and the hapless General would have been dismissed as a nutter.

And Mr Taleb doesn’t do predictions either.

So here’s my tally from last year:

1. 2007 will be the year of mobile user generated content.

Yes, I think that’s one in the bag for me. Sites like Peperonity and Itsmy have seen huge growth and have hundreds of thousands of passionate users. Add that to the multiple conferences and press coverage and we’ll look back on 2007 as the year that MugCon reached its tipping point.

The question for the future will be what happens when the mobile specialists collide with the web based giants as Facebook et al cross the mobile Tiber.

2. Usability

Usability would be at the forefront of mobile this year and again, I think this was pretty spot-on. Much of the fuss can be put down to the launch of the iPhone (more on that later), which catapulted usability into centre stage. But there’s lots of other signs too pointing that companies understand that usability is key to great mobile products.

If you’re planning a career change any time soon, becoming a usability guru for mobile would be a very solid and profitable option for the coming decade.

3. Bluetooth Unleashed

File sharing via Bluetooth is now huge among kids, but hard (if not impossible) to track as the files don’t travel via the networks. But talk to any kid aged 10 and over and they certainly know all about Bluetooth and invariably claim to be sharing content already.

Bluetooth file sharing is going to be an increasingly important use case in mobile and maybe there’s some business opportunities for some smart entrepreneurs out there. And I’m not talking about the Bluespammers.

4. Podcasting

I said that by now many people would be using their mobiles as their primary Podcasting consumption device. I also said that I’d have a tough time proving this one way or another!

I’d say that this predictions was a tad early. I have no doubt that mobiles are going to eat the specialist MP3 player market within the next two years or so. And therefore Podcasting will be injested along with the music, so ultimately I think this is a robust prediction. But with the exception of the Walkman range, I’d be surprised if this is as big as I was thinking.

So, I’ll give myself no points on that one, even though I’ll be right in the longer term.

5. Euro Data Tarriffs

I said that they’d begin to fall in 2007. This has definitely begun to happen in most markets that I track, although there’s a long way to go down in countries like Germany.

But I think I am safe to claim my point.

6. Mobile Marketing

I said we’d see an explosion in 2007 and I have the evidence close to hand. AdMob alone served its one Billionth ad in January 2007 and we’ll end the year at over 13 Billion. Incidentally, an interesting little factoid for you. The universe is reckoned to be 13.7 Billion years old, so sometime in January 2008, AdMob will have served more ads than the number of years in history. I don’t know why I find this interesting, other than I do.

Mobile marketing also saw the big boys making moves, especially Google’s disappointing foray. Let’s hope they do better next year.

7. Mobile Search

I wrote

So, 2007 and mobile search: lots of noise, mucho big announcements, very little actual user use. Its day will come and it’s obviously important that the big boys do their strategic deals in anticipation of that time. But usage won’t be big this year.

I think this is a pretty good assessment of what happened. But if you disagree with that, or with the others, have your say in the comments please.

8. PayPal Mobile

I predicted that 2007 would see some serious traction for the eBay owned giant, although serious success would be some way off.

I seem to have totally got this one wrong, though I don’t really understand what’s holding them up. They’ve got a good product, aren’t limited by startup budgets and constraints and a huge user base to leverage and yet…nothing seems to be happening.

Or if it is, they’re keeping things very quiet. Anyone know what gives?

9. LBS

But my overall thoughts for LBS is that outside a few trials, it’s going to be another disappointing and frustrating year. Don’t worry though, it’s time will come.

One point.

10. iPhone

I certainly got no points for this as I predicted a very disappointing launch for Apple – despite having correctly predicted it happening way before most (any?) others. I clearly completely underestimated the Apple fanboys’ willingness to buy anything made my Mr Jobs and Co, even if it’s not as great a product as the hype.

The reasons why it’s a poor product such as slow surfing, poor text inputting and lack of enterprise support are well documented. But it’s shininess and sexyness won the day and Round One has been a staggering success – enough even to persuade operators to share voice and data revenues in an unprecedented move. I bet Nokia is burning with envy.

Obviously, we’ll see V2 of the iPhone next year as well as a bunch of iPhone-inspired competitors and that will set the scene for the future. Will it be a one hit wonder or will Apple be a major player in the mobile space? I’d bet on the former, but I think I’ve learned my lesson about trying to predict anything where Apple is concerned.

So in summary, I’ll give myself a disappointing 7 out of 10 this year, proving if nothing else that making predictions is a mug’s game. Get them right and everyone forgets how hard it was to call them a whole year ago. Get them wrong and people scratch their heads and wonder how you could have misjudged things so badly. But not to foresee the iPhone success – mea culpa!

Have a go yourself, why don’t you? Leave a comment below or do it on your own blog and link to here. Carlo and I need to get our wizard hats on and conjure up next year’s key events.

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