In mobile, at least, 2013 was a(nother) big year

Christopher Mims of Quartz has kicked up a dust storm in the tech media with this post proclaiming 2013 to be “a lost year for tech.” Among other things, this was the year that smartphones became commodities, Mim opines — “just like the PCs they supplanted” — and the much-hyped market for wearables fell flat. He also mentions the disappointing sales of Microsoft’s Surface RT and BlackBerry’s inability to turn things around.

Om Malik wrote an great response here, and I wanted to focus on mobile as I add my two cents. Smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached roughly 65 percent, and worldwide penetration lags far behind — so while whether smartphones have been commoditized is arguable (and may actually be a good thing, as Om noted), there’s still plenty of room for growth. As for wearables, it’s far too early to say that market disappointed, because the first smartwatches are only beginning to come to market and we’re still months (at least) from seeing affordable connected glasses hit the shelves. My colleague Kevin Tofel has argued compellingly that the Surface RT could yet be a hit, and BlackBerry’s failures this year had very little to do with technology — BlackBerry 10, which rolled out this year, is an impressive platform.

In fact, a close look at the mobile industry proves that we’ve already entered the next generation of mobile. All four tier-one carriers in the U.S. are operating LTE networks, and we’re seeing the emergence of things like the connected home, mobile healthcare apps and devices, and services based on Bluetooth low energy. It’s true that we didn’t see any revolutionary mobile devices like the iPad or iPhone come to market — but that’s setting a ridiculously high bar. In every other sense, 2013 was anything but a lost year for the industry.