Mobile Landscape Really About to Change
There’s been a big stir of comments, reviews, predictions etc. surroungding the release of the newest Android device in the US. The Motorola Droid was released a few weeks back on the Verizon network and so far the reviews and comments have been pretty positive. A lot of reviewers consider the device and it’s operating system to be the first formidable competitor to the iPhone in terms of overall capability. I am going to purchase a Droid in the coming weeks because it’s time for me to upgrade from my trusty Motorola Q9 (2nd generation Q, 1st generation was not so trusty).
Anyway, the recent release of a Android 2.0 device on a major network in the US is really a big deal because it may start to reduce the fragmentation amongst the crowded smartphone landscape here and possibly across the world. Android is very capable, and the development community for Android is increasing daily. iPhone is the well established champion that has long lacked a real challenger. Now that we will have 2 major platforms that do what learners want them to do (everything, web surfing, apps, music, video, etc.), we may start to see some of the other players in that smartphone market tick off. And as we continue to see the population as a whole asking for more features, we will probably see feature phones phased out in favor of a new baseline of functionality in all mobile devices. Just as you can no longer buy a non-touchtone phone for your house, you won’t be able to buy a device that doesn’t access the web and doesn’t have the ability to download apps.
So if you’re looking to build a mobile learning application or to be the provider of mobile learning resources of any kind, you may want to consider the possibility that we will see only a few of the current players in the mobile platform market in a couple of years. My guess is that in 5 years, the major players will be Android, iPhone and Symbian (Nokia, Sony-Ericsson).
I think Windows mobile will still be a fringe competitor because they have the money to stay in any fight for now. I think RIM (Blackberry) may be able to stay in at the edges too if they somehow create a real competitive OS, but right now I don’t hear much about them moving in that direction. They could also adopt another OS like Android and somehow integrate their security features and push technology that makes them so popular with corporations. Palm, I want to see them succeed, but they need to do a bunch of things to help their chances, like get their devices on major networks, build a bigger developer base for application and services development and continue to come out with new and different devices. At this time, Palm’s future doesn’t look so good even with their new WebOS, but they could also find a savior in Android, or they could find a way to make their device a major player in other ways.
These developments could be good for mobile learning in a couple of ways. First, as the platform developers listen to users, it appears that we are finally getting a baseline of functionality that people want. As I eluded to earlier, web access and a real browser are at the top, and the ability to download/access applicatons is very big as well. Devices are also going to come with much better media tools, cameras, and video capture technologies. Second, defragmentation of the market allows mobile learning developers and designers to target just one or two platforms with the expectation of access to the masses. As a developer, this second issue is really pretty important. We would all love to build for every platform out there, but there simply isn’t time or money available in most cases especially when it comes to learning.
If you’d like to know more about some factors driving the defragmentation of the mobile landscape, take a look at this blog post from Jason Perlow at ZDNET: