2009 Predictions 7, 8, 9 and 10

Finally, here are my last lot of Predictions for 2009.

7. Mobile Payments Gain Traction

Ultimately, I believe that the mobile will swallow up the credit card industry, just as it’s fundamentally changed the photo business and decimated alarm clock and calculator sales. But it’s going to be pretty tricky getting from where we are today to achieving this vision.

However, there are some really encouraging signs and I expect 2009 to show quiet, steady, growth, especially in developing markets, where there’s already a lot of traction.

I wrote about Crandy a few years back, describing this European-based payment provider as the “dark horse of mobile payments” and it’s continued to thrive, largely under the radar, quietly building a user base of 500,000+. That’s certainly impressive enough to build the foundations of a big business.

In the meantime, some of my colleagues at Forum Oxford (the free discussion forum), point to equally impressive case studies such as Kenya’s M-Pesa and India’s Hello Money. Both these enable peer-to-peer transactions at their core, especially facilitating migrant workers’ ability to send money home to their families.

These three companies have cleverly identified P2P as the essential first step in over-coming the classic chicken-and-egg of mobile payments – you can’t build consumer interest until you have places to spend the money, but you can’t build a merchant base until you have consumers. But if you focus on P2P, you can build your consumer base and then talk to merchants later.

Definitely an area to watch in 2009.

8. First Scare Stories Hit MoSoSo

It’s long been a bugbear of online social networking that the press loves to focus on the negative. You know the kind of thing – kid arranges to meet that fit dude they met online, only to find that it’s a 40 year old pervert, who kidnaps and kills her. Most of these stories aren’t accurate and blown out of all proportion by the media, but retractions are rarely printed and that much mud tends to stick eventually. That doesn’t mean I ever advocate kids meeting others they met online, by the way – it’s a stupid thing to do, just like crossing a busy road blindfolded.

Mobile Social Software (MoSoSo) has exploded in usage in the last few years and the downside of going mainstream will be that the press start to leap on the scandal bandwagon. I predict the first big MoSoSo abduction story in 2009, as well as quite a few more.

9. Buzz Words for 2009

Last year, we suggested that “open” and “privacy” would be the big buzz words of the year and they certainly were. They’re not going away either, but it would be a little boring to say the same thing twice.

So this year, I’d say we’re going to be hearing an awful lot of “App Store” as everyone jumps on this particular bandwagon (don’t forget, if you can see the bandwagon it’s too late, folks) and “security”.

For a long time the anti-virus industry has been desperately trying to convince us that our phones are really at risk, even though viruses are both difficult to install and rarely seen in the wild – and I don’t think ever in serious numbers (please tell me if I’m wrong). However, with smart phones commanding more and more market share in 2009, I think their efforts to persuade us that our phones are about to explode without their software are going to become more and more strident.

I’m not going to succumb, but that isn’t a recommendation that you don’t either. But, for sure, the S-word is going to be big this year.

10. Mobile Learning

Not so much a prediction, more a 2009 wish.

The mobile represents a unique tool to teach, in both the developed and developing worlds – especially the latter, in my view. We’ve seen the great vision behind the One Laptop per Child project, but it’s fraught with difficulties, as are most huge ideas. Big business has tried to launch competitive projects and software and then there’s the whole issue that the organisation must get the laptops into the field in the first place, involving notoriously tricky Government negotiation and funding.

In the meantime, many of these target kids already have access to a mobile, albeit one per family or even one per village, but the point is that they already are connected to a digital device today. So take the principle of the OLpC project and combine all that goodness with the mobile and we have something that’s already capable of changing the world. And once you start educating ordinary people, they’re less easy to indoctrinate with propaganda and fanatical messages, so in a way, the mobile could be responsible for sowing the seeds of world peace, if that doesn’t sound too hippyish.

If you missed it earlier in the year, take a look at this inspiring video and you’ll see the potential:

I actually wrote these predictions at the beginning of December to intitially present at the National Mobile Monday Congress in Munich. So it’s great to see this announcement in the last few days from the BBC and Sony Ericsson about their joint initiative to teach English via the mobile in Bangladesh. It’s going to be the tip of the iceberg for projects like this, some charitable and some for-profit and all are to be welcomed.

So, my actual prediction is that we’ll see a bunch of these ideas launched this year (I was going to say at least one major project, but that’s already happened now!), as I think mobile and learning is part of the zeitgeist.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in this whole “mobile meets learning” area, a great resource is Judy Breck’s blog, Golden Swamp. Check it out.

So all that remains is to wish you a great 2009 and I hope you’ll come back from time to time to see what Carlo and I are writing about.

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