Following my, uh, stellar performance in 2008, here are my predictions for 2009. This was pretty tough, actually, as it was hard to see much past the doom and gloom of the economy to much brightness and light. There’s some, though. As usual, leave your comments and predictions, or a link to them, in the comments.
1. Palm and/or Motorola’s handset business will die.
One or both of these companies will cease to be in 2009. They’ll go out of business or be swallowed by somebody, finally paying the price for their years of poor management and poor products. Palm’s going to try to make a big splash at CES with its long-overdue new software platform, but it’s very much too little, too late. Motorola’s business is dwindling as it’s unable to rein in costs quickly and effectively enough, while its sales remain mired in a slump with no products to change that on the horizon.
2. Apple will release more versions of the iPhone.
Incremental upgrades won’t be enough for Apple, and it will look to emulate the iPod in 2009 by introducing at least one more model of the iPhone. While my preference would be for an iPhone Shuffle, that seems unlikely. I also predict this will be a mess, particularly when it comes to the App Store, thanks to different screen sizes. I’ll probably also chuckle a little as Apple learns what a pain fragmentation can be.
3. Flat-rate data will make a big move to prepaid phones.
We’ve seen the availiability of relatively reasonably priced flat-rate data plans expand to almost anybody who wants one in most Western countries, and 2009 will see this shift to prepaid phones. Operators will look to boost prepaid ARPU, particularly as the economy drives some contract users over to PAYG. Flat-rate data plans will continue to be a major story, if only because they make offloading mobile data to WiFi or fixed networks more palatable for operators. Offloading itself will become a bigger issue in 2009 as sales of 3G dongles continue to boom, and networks get more and more crowded.
4. Streaming audio services will start to show some of the promise of mobile music — then they’ll get smacked down by operators.
The popularity of Pandora among iPhone users hints at how well streaming music can go down on mobile devices. It’s great — until operators start getting tetchy about all that traffic and start blocking streaming (unless it comes from one of their paid services).
5. Nokia’s services strategy will succeed — in emerging markets.
My take on Nokia’s services strategy is no secret: I think it’s a mess that stands little chance of success. In developed Western nations, at least, where it faces the impossible task of getting users to give up the internet services they’re affiliated with and used to, in favor of Nokia’s services, which may work better on the phone, but far less well on the PC. But in emerging markets where PC ownership isn’t as high and the mobile phone has primacy when it comes to connecting to the internet, Nokia’s services could look very compelling to users, and the PC versions may be good enough to suffice.