(This post first appeared on the ardent-software blog page)
The world is becoming mobile. This has been happening gradually for some time, but recently I heard on the radio that teenagers are even moving away from using text messaging because smartphones give them easy access to instant messaging systems and social media, so texts are dull by comparison!
Personally, I’m not sure about that – text messaging is a different proposition – you only require a number and you can communicate with someone. To do the same thing via a social media platform, you need to create a profile and log in but, more significantly, the other person needs to be using the same platform.
This sort of reliance on a single ‘application’ might suit the teenage market, where these things run in crazes, but it isn’t practical if you are looking to connect with a wide customer or prospect base via a mobile solution – text messaging remains the best option in these cases, whether for appointment reminders, updates from a breakdown service, notifications from banks and so on.
What are the main trends for 2014?
One notable statistic to come out of 2013 was the fact that it was the year that saw the tipping point between mobile and desktop usage – for the first time, people used the internet more through mobile devices than through ‘static’ ones.
Interestingly, though, desktop products still slightly outsold mobile products during 2013, but the feeling amongst industry insiders is that 2014 will see the tipping point for that particular trend as well, and more mobile devices will be sold.
Part of the driving force behind this mobile growth is clearly the rise in use and acceptance of ‘cloud’ computing – it is now easily possible to run an entire business operation from an iPad, via an internet browser. There is no requirement for access to servers, VPNs, remote desktops and so on – except for legacy reasons. If you start a business in 2014, you need to think very carefully about the equipment you buy and the infrastructure you build.
The other reason behind the mobile gains is the technology itself – the hardware makes it simple to get online whenever you want and wherever you are. So people begin to interact differently with the internet, either through social media or purely through browsing more frequently than a desktop would permit.
Consider a big TV event – the final of a talent show, or something similar. People will now sit watching it, and also interact with their friends via Twitter, Facebook, or whatever. This isn’t something you would fetch out the laptop to do, nor would you sit at your desktop machine, so the relationship that people have with the internet is changing.
In turn this will affect the way that advertisers try and target those people, so I suspect we will see some new initiatives aimed at getting product information in front of people at certain times, or in certain situations, based on their internet usage profile perhaps. This type of data may come to provide an additional income stream for social media sites.
Christmas 2013 saw another massive rise in online shopping – again probably fuelled by the ease with which people can now access online retailers. As often as not, orders are probably placed while someone is standing in a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ outlet looking at the actual product in the flesh! Mobile payment technologies are on the rise, and I suspect there will be more developments here in 2014, whether it is through apps for accessing your bank, or actual payment processing systems.
Another trend to look out for in 2014 is the growth in wearable devices – wristwatches and so on – although it remains to be seen how much demand there is for these beyond the novelty value. Also, privacy remains a big concern, as many of these devices incorporate camera technology. Probably the most practical proposal for wearable technology remains fitness devices that monitor and retain your statistics as you stagger around the block.
Mobile technology allows the boundary between work and play to be broken down. I some respects this is not a good thing (unless you love your job!) but it does mean that many people are online to a greater or lesser extent for a large part of the day. We can expect both hardware and software providers to attempt to interpret and monetise this relatively new way in which many of us now interact with the virtual world.
It may be that one of the biggest mobile trends of 2014 will be as much about our society and culture as it is about the technology.