Future of mobile: 5 takeaways from Mobilize 2012

A long, early Saturday flight home highlighted the end of our Mobilize 2012 event, giving me plenty of time to digest all of the salient points made by our speakers and panelists. Many of these spoke to not only the current state of mobile, but the future too. And that future is fast approaching as we’re watching improvements in mobile broadband networks, better software tools, smarter app discovery engines, and hardware cycles that are revving faster than ever.

Some of the more poignant thoughts from our Mobilize speakers exemplify this theme, so here are a few I thought worth sharing:

  • Don’t count out HTML5 just yet. Mark Zuckerberg may not have been happy with HTML 5 for Facebook(s fb), but Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow said, “In my mind, we’re moving more towards a world where apps are basically bookmarks for mobile websites.” Native apps will surely have a place in the future — and its users are more highly engaged, says Rascoff — but mobile web technology is still improving.
  • The “point of sale” is now everywhere. While near-field communications (NFC) payment methods haven’t yet taken off significantly, alternative solutions that align more with traditional payments are becoming popular. Square COO, Keith Rabois noted that “35 million unique Americans have paid with Square,” or roughly 11.1 percent of the 314 million population in the US. Take into account that a number of the total population is too young to actually make purchases and the adoption figure rises even higher. Coincidentally, I had my first Square experience on the way to Mobilize; my taxi drive used it with his Galaxy S III smartphone to process my fare from airport to GigaOm HQ.
  • Video is becoming a primary mobile activity. The granddaddy of all video sites, Google’s YouTube(s goog), is now delivering 25 percent of its content to mobile devices and the figure is likely to rise in tandem with mobile broadband subscriptions. In Korea, for example, which has 91 mobile broadband subscribers for every 100 people, YouTube’s mobile delivery is closer to 50 percent, said Shiva Rajaraman, YouTube’s director of product management. This means we’ll see a greater need for faster mobile broadband, offline playback support and improved video compression technologies in the future.
  • Connected homes will only appeal if the solutions are simple and add value. As a do-it-yourselfer, my own connected home is a mishmash of networks, protocols, products and interfaces. “Most consumers really, really, really don’t want to be integrators,” said Bill Brown, GM of converged consumer solutions for Motorola Mobility(s goog). Watch for more plug-and-play modules that talk seamlessly with each other instead of more complex, centralized home servers for connected homes.
  • Developers need to consider the broadband their software needs. Third party apps that eat through gobs of mobile broadband could passed over for similar apps that use less data. “You want an app that does 50 miles to the gallon, not 10,” suggested T-Mobile CTO, Neville Ray. As our mobile software gains more complex functionality, it’s important that developers temper the need for cloud access and even consider offline use-cases if possible.