Every year we stick our necks out and make our predictions for the coming year, at least as far as mobile tech is concerned. We boldly predict what we think are going to be the big products and events in the mobile tech arena. Each year at about the mid-year mark we revisit those predictions to see where we hit the mark, and where things aren’t unfolding the way we thought they would. It is time to give a look back at those predictions from last year and see how well we did.
What We predicted:
By far the biggest story in notebooks will continue to be the lowly netbook. We will see models refreshed and new models continue to be released by those new to the scene. Prices will remain about where they are at the end of 2008 as they don’t have very far to fall while keeping the basic features intact. These basic features will not change much due to the thin price range. We’ll continue to see Atoms everywhere, 1 GB of RAM, SSDs and HDDs like we see now. Touchscreens will start to be offered but it won’t take long for consumers to figure out they offer little except higher cost.
Windows 7 will appear in the second half of 2009 and Microsoft will make a big push to get XP off of netbooks. They will have to make huge concessions for a new OS as far as pricing to do so however. Netbooks that cost $300 – 400 will not support an OS with a licensing fee of over $25. The term “netbook” will continue to flourish despite Psion’s best efforts.
Major OEMs will continue to push thin and light notebooks on both the enterprise and increasingly on consumers. The race will stay on to add the most features while keeping the price around $1,000 for these consumer laptops. Integrated 3G will continue to be a feature on notebooks but consumers will remain reluctant to pony up $60 per month for the data plans. Unfortunately we will not see any new developments in battery tech so things will be stagnant in this area.
Apple will finally refresh the 17-inch MacBook Pro by introducing a powerful unibody Pro with the big screen and a quad-core processor. This will be aimed at the professional graphics worker and will cost in the rich neighborhood of $3,000. There will not be an Apple netbook as such a low priced device is not in Apple’s scheme of things. They will introduce an “iPod Maxi” that is an iPod Touch with a 5 – 7-inch screen. They will claim this is their netbook, although lacking a keyboard.
How We Fared:
Netbooks are no question the dominating product category in the notebook area. This year has seen the continuation of many netbook models released to the market, with much the same specs as we predicted. The HP Mini 5101 and Toshiba NB205 that Kevin and I are currently playing with are nice netbooks, but largely the same as earlier models.
Our prediction that we would start seeing netbooks with touchscreens is almost true, as the ASUS T91 will be released in a few weeks. Early reviews of the T91 back up what we predicted, that such netbooks offer less to consumers than desired.
Our thoughts on thin and light notebooks were spot on, with every major OEM releasing them this year. Even the venerable ThinkPad line has seen thin models hit the shelves.
Apple (s aapl) did indeed refresh the expensive MacBook Pro, 17-inch version. The unibody MBP has the special integrated long-life battery to appeal to mobile workers. The rumors of an Apple slate device back up our prediction, although our expectation of a 5 – 7-inch screen may be smaller than the 10-inch size that is heavily expected.
Notebooks/ Netbooks Prediction Grade: A
What We Predicted:
The line between smartphones and feature phones will continue to blur in 2009 with consumers not caring what their phone is called. We will continue to see feature-rich phones with big touchscreens and web browsing pushed by the carriers. This will have a desirable affect for smartphone users as the carriers will have to reduce their monthly rate for data plans. Consumers just “buying a phone” will not pay the high fees for data plans that are being charged now. We will see 3G stop being a selling point and become an expected commodity in 2009. The proliferation of web phones will begin saturating the carrier’s networks and may affect enterprise service.
Microsoft will likely introduce the next interim version of Windows Mobile to compete more directly with the iPhone. This will not be the next major version of WM which likely won’t appear until 2010. This interim version of Windows Mobile must incorporate touch throughout the core of the OS if new WM devices are to remain competitive. HTC will continue to be the biggest WM handset producer in 2009.
Apple may introduce a refresh of the iPhone 3G but it will be minor if so. We might see an updated processor and video capabilities but that’s about it.
Android will really begin picking up steam in 2009 and we expect to see as many as 12 handsets appear from different OEMs bearing the Android OS. The OS will continue to improve and get really robust as the commercial app store is open early in the year. Android will become a force to be reckoned with in 2009 and begin stealing market share from Windows Mobile. We’ll see version 2 of Android in 2009 that will rapidly bring it into the competitive world. Expect Exchange support in Android 2.
Nokia and other OEMs will continue to lose market share to Apple and RIM. Blackberries will continue to invade the consumer space making RIM even bigger than before. They will produce several new handsets that will firmly straddle the enterprise/ consumer space, thus cementing their future in the smartphone domain.
How We Fared:
Smartphones have indeed become the standard as far as phones are concerned. Every OEM is producing them it seems and sales numbers show that consumers are flocking to the smarter phones. Web connectivity is pretty much expected on phones and 3G has increasingly become the norm as a result.
Microsoft (s msft) is expected to release Windows Mobile 6.5 this year. WM 6.5 is the interim version intended to tide everyone over until the Next Big Thing in WinMo, 7.0, is released in 2010. HTC is still a dominant producer of WM phones, although they have shocked folks with the recent news they will produce more Android (s goog) phones next year than the WinMo variety.
Our expectations of the Android platform have been met, with the next generation phones hitting consumer hands. Android is definitely gathering steam in the smartphone area and will become a steamroller as more phones get released.
Apple and RIM (s rimm) have seen high sales numbers this year, and Nokia continues to drop like a rock. The dark horse this year, that we didn’t predict, is the Palm (s palm) Pre. The Pre went from an announcement early this year to a released product, and has become a factor on the smartphone stage. In our defense, Palm has surprised pretty much everybody this year with the Pre.
Smartphones Prediction Grade: B+ (for missing the Pre)
What We Predicted:
WiMAX will continue to roll out but not many will care. The major players will continue to be burned by the “chicken and egg” situation that has consumers waiting to enroll until the coverage is as big as 3G. LTE will make strides in 2009 on its way to be the NBT in 4G and this will be a nail in the WiMAX coffin.
How We Fared:
Sprint (s s) and Clearwire (s clwr) have been racing to get WiMAX 4G service rolled out in as many cities in the U. S. as they can. They have surprised us with the speed they are moving, but customers are reporting that coverage in those cities is spotty. Verizon (s vz) had recently indicated they are moving up the rollout schedule for LTE, and time will tell if we are correct that it will kill off WiMAX.
4G Prediction Grade: B (for coming down too hard on WiMAX)
What We Predicted:
We add this category reluctantly because it is clear that it is dead as a product line. The current players producing devices will continue to refresh them but little innovation will appear in this space in 2009. Touch will continue to be the rage in this area, continuing to push the ink well off the screen. This is expected with the technology incorporated into Vista and touch being a mantra with Windows 7. Ink will become an even smaller niche market in 2009 than it was in 2008.
How We Fared:
Sadly, we have been spot on with our call that the Tablet PC product line is dead. There has been zero innovation in this area this year, and Tablet PCs as touted by Microsoft are a non-item. Our prediction that touch will enter this area is also correct, with slates expected from a number of vendors this year. These touch tablets, chief among them the expected Apple slate, further confuse the consumer as to what a Tablet PC really is. Ink on the tablet is likely dead.
Tablet PC Prediction Grade: A+
So far this year has unfolded to show that our predictions were pretty good overall. The dominant products in the mobile tech area are definitely netbooks and smartphones, with the upcoming web tablets ready to enter the stage.