This month’s issue of the Float Newsletter kicks off the new year with some predictions for 2011. The predictions are divided in to two categories. The first group contains general thoughts about what will change across the mobile landscape during the year. While not specifically learning, these changes will certainly impact the mLearning arena. The second group looks specifically at ways mobile learning will evolve during the next 12 months and how these changes will impact those responsible for producing and delivering mobile learning.
Mobile Landscape Predictions
- Continued Growth of Android – It’s up almost 900% over 2009 and it will probably grow nearly as much in 2011. Mostly with first time smartphone users, though a lot of people are up for upgrades now with some of the first Android users and the iPhone 3GS buys now being up for contract. If the iPhone hasn’t spread to other carriers by June, there may be an exodus from AT&T’s continually dogged network. Android will likely pick up that slack.
- Google will attempt to thwart the fragmentation in the Android ecosystem. This may happen via changes to the license or forking of the OS (ie. to call something an Android phone, you must do x,y,z or meet very strict requirements). A number of conferences we’ve attended have had sessions lamenting this fragmentation. Google has made some announcements about Android’s need for a standardized UI, though they have yet to sink any real teeth into it. With Microsoft’s Windows Phone requirements seeming Draconian in comparison, there is no real reason why Google can’t and shouldn’t tighten the reigns a bit. Simply put, as it is right now, there are too many variables in the hardware and even the user interface to make software development easy enough to realize real profitability for app developers. The 3.0 Honeycomb UI demos look to be a great step in this direction (http://youtu.be/hPUGNCIozp0), but standards need to be drawn up in the implementation guidelines to make this have any real teeth.
- Consolidation of Mobile OSes… Either Symbian, WebOS or Windows Phone, or RIMs Blackberry OS will pull up stakes. All are losing market share too quickly to continue, or are so stagnant in growth that the returns can’t be there. One or more will be announced as End of Lifed. If I had to put my money on it right now, WebOS seems the most likely for an EOL, though with Web OS 2.0 right around the corner, it may be too early to tell. There is no doubt that Symbian is crumbling before Nokia’s very eyes, but they may be too stubborn to let it go soon enough. RIM’s dominance in business is shaken, but the 6.0 update and a couple nice handsets might be enough for the business set to keep them going for some time. Microsoft Windows’ new Phone 7 platform is still a baby, so it seems unlikely they will pull the plug, but I have three letters for you that may say otherwise: K-I-N.
- LTE rollouts will accelerate the mobile web eclipsing landline/traditional terrestrial-based Internet traffic. This seems easy to peg. If you have more bandwidth, you will use it. The time is not here yet, but it is just around the corner when you may not want or need a high bandwidth cable or fiber connection into your home. A meager 1.5 Mbps connection to your devices might be enough for general browsing… for the big stuff, (HD Movies, software downloads, gaming) you might just use… wait for it… your smartphone. Ha ha you say… look at these numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3GPP_Long_Term_Evolution. They don’t lie. Your phone may be the fastest web connection in your home in the next year, if you live in 30 of the NFL cities, for example. http://gizmodo.com/5704797/verizon-lte-speed-test-insanely-fast. This is no joke, a 2 bar signal strength still gets 9 Mbps.
- iPhone will make it to Verizon. Finally! Though exclusivity is not supposed to end until 2012, there may be other forces at work here. The rumor mill has been churning on this one for a long time. There are part orders from Chinese fabricators, hearsay and leaked details galore, but until Steve comes out on stage touting the Verizon iPhone as the most magical smartphone ever, it won’t be real. That said, Apple has to be getting tired of losing market share in the smartphone arena. The only way for them to get market back may be to expand to other carriers. AT&T exclusivity has to be hurting iOS growth at this point. Due to the United States somewhat spotty coverage from carrier to carrier in different regions of the nation, the only way to get more users is to have better options for carriers to ensure a top-tier mobile experience. Some people simply won’t buy an iPhone because of poor AT&T coverage in their area.
- PC makers will abandon netbooks for tablets. The margin on a netbook is razor thin. Between hardware costs, licensing Windows and other considerations, there isn’t that much money to made on a $300 computer. A $400-$500 tablet on the other hand can run the “free” Android OS, has nearly as low a ‘bag-of-parts” wholesale cost as an Atom-based netbook, takes far less space to ship and offers a cool-factor not seen by netbooks since 2006. It’s a win all around. Which maker will drop netbooks? Not sure, but we can bet that the number of Windows-based netbooks shipping is set to plummet in 2011, with tablets picking up a lot of the slack. Someone is running the numbers right now and making plans for CES.
- A major university will announce a radical shift in textbook purchasing institution wide: eBooks, ePub, etc. We realize this prediction is purely a wild guess, but the timing just seems right. The Kindle, which is the #1 item on Amazon, sells for less than the cost of a semester of books and is joined in the marketplace by a plethora of eReaders like the Nook (which according to Barnes and Nobles sales numbers for the holidays did very well) and others. We expect a university with a progressive technology slant (i.e. someone like ACU http://www.acu.edu/), a green focus and an interest in making the news will announce a timeline to move completely to electronic books for course texts. Expect a publisher to be involved in the press release and possibly a hardware manufacturer, too.
- Mobile web resurgence – Companies will realize building an app for that, and that, and that has become too expensive. Look for many more HTML5-based apps and more interesting business models to emerge. Lots of app buyers may be about to enter the V2 or V3 of their application life cycles, and if our web design and development experience has taught us anything, it’s that mature buyers are sensitive to reusability of assets and cost management. The mobile web is just less expensive than proprietary OS app development.
- Big changes at providers. As the smartphone becomes the dominant form factor, look for lots of BOGO deals, free handsets, free texting, more data plan tiers and other sorts of tactics to gain customers. With this, some odd permutations on how data plans can be used are going to arise. Net neutrality will likely become a mobile issue.
- Lots more tablets. RIM, HP, Dell, Sony, etc are all poised to release sub 10″ form factor tablets and slates in 2011. One only has to look at the announcements from CES (http://www.zdnet.com/topics/ces?tag=content;post-tags) to see this!
- Rapid growth in Cross-platform toolkits. Titanium and Phonegap are just the tip of the iceberg. Look for Adobe and lots of other players to amp up their activity in this space. It makes sense to offer developers flexibility, and with the mobile marketplace becoming ever more fragmented, the developer toolkit that offers the highest overall percentage penetration amongst users is bound to enjoy a lot of success.
Mobile Learning Predictions
- Mobile learning will get its own identity. In 2010 and certainly prior years, mobile learning has been viewed as a step-child to eLearning. The majority of those who heard the term mLearning or mobile learning assumed the term meant nothing more than eLearning on a mobile device. In 2011, mobile learning will become much more widely known and recognized as a distinct discipline, separate from eLearning in many ways both technically and pedagogically.
- Investment in mobile learning will significantly increase. The rising visibility of mobile learning along with the drought of training and development investment due to the recession will result in significantly more investment dollars being put into mobile learning during 2011. Companies will be looking for effective ways to invest their training and human performance development dollars and mobile’s explosive growth will be where companies choose to make their investment.
- Mobile learning sub-disciplines will begin to emerge. In the past, mobile learning has encompassed everything from cellphones in the classroom, to on-the-job performance support, to web access on tablets, SMS and beyond. In 2011, we will begin to see different factions of mobile learning splinter off as groups focus on specific audiences and learning needs.
- Mobile learning development for tablets will become one of these sub-disciplines. As more companies release tablets (see prediction #10 in the previous section) designing mLearning for these devices will be a major area of focus. Given their larger than smartphone form factor and screens, but significantly more mobility and less expense than desktops or laptops, expect to see significant learning development focused around these devices.
- Flash will still have an impact (at least in the area of mobile learning). Much has been written and publicized about the iPad and other iOS devices not running Flash. But Flash currently runs on Android devices running OS 2.2 and HP’s Palm Pre. In addition, Adobe has announced plans for Flash to run on BlackBerry, Symbian OS, and future versions of Windows Phone. Why is this significant? Because eLearning developers have spent the last decade learning Flash and using it as their primary development platform for interactive development. There are a significant number of rapid eLearning development tools that exist that are all based around Flash. Organizations who are currently developing eLearning are going to have a difficult time and a large expense trying to switch gears and move to an HTML 5 platform or enter the somewhat daunting world of Native Mobile OS Development.
So, there you have it – a list of some cool stuff just around the corner. Some of the ideas may just be pure conjecture, but no doubt a good majority of it is poised to happen in the next 12 months.
How about you? What kinds of things are you looking forward to in 2011? Let us know by dropping by our blog or commenting on our Facebook wall (http://www.facebook.com/FloatLearning).