Obligatory Year In Review Post

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OK, Gang. Every blogger must create a year in review posting. I am pretty sure that it is a law. So, here is the Mobile Ambition 7 for 2007 post:

  1. Device of the Year: Duh. It is the iPhone. Regardless of what you think about the device and regardless of your opinion of Apple, it is, without a doubt the single most talked about piece of mobile hardware since the release of the RAZR. Now, as I have said before, I am pretty sure that my next device will be an iPhone, but whatever. This choice has very little to do with my desire for the device. Fundamentally, what the iPhone has done is create an incredible level of interest in mobile as not only a communication device, but also as an entertainment platform and an information platform. There is little (if anything) in the iPhone that is revolutionary. However, Apple has created an object of desire that whets the consumer’s appetite for mobile yumminess. As one of my carrier contacts (he doesn’t offer the iPhone) described, Apple has created awareness and demand for mobile data usage. Apple did nothing to make anybody want to make more calls, but they did position the iPhone as a portal to a new and exciting world of mobile data. That benefits EVERYONE in the mobile industry. Runners Up: A) RIM’s 8000 series phones. These handsets are clearly just an evolution in devices, but these phones have brought out the best that the industry has to offer, with bright screens, solid keyboards, great data services. They didn’t quite capture the imagination of the media and populace that Apple did, but RIM has created VERY good phones, GREAT data devices, and really raised the smartphone bar. B)Moto RAZR2: OK, so lots of folks hate Moto. I like them. The RAZR 2 is a great improvement over the recent rash or RAZR whatevers. Moto has done a great job of cramming all sorts of media goodness into a slim profile phone that is evocative of a classic design (the original RAZR) and enticingly forward looking at the same time. Moreover, the RAZR 2 really brings the very best that feature phones have to offer without upsetting the Bell standard handset design and the traditional clamshell/keyboard design. While the price is too high at every carrier, this is a very solid effort and deserving of a 2nd runner’s up spot.
  2. Manufacturer of the Year: Samsung has continued to innovate and refine its design aesthetic so that it is producing many lust-worthy handsets. I am applauding Samsung not so much for their software which I think is OK (certainly middle of the mobile pack here) but for their physical design. I had an M610 on Sprint earlier in 2007 and it was VERY thin, and easy to hold. Their new A727 for ATT is a dead-sexy phone. The Upstage on Sprint, regardless of what you think of it, is a compelling phone and feels very good in the hand. Samsung has done this year what many manufacturers have forgotten…that a phone is a physical device that is handled and cradled against your face, and stuffed in your pocket, and it must be good at opening and closing and have a great tactile feel. Samsung hit that hard this year.
  3. Software of the Year: It has to be Android. Again, regardless of how the software turns out, or how you feel about Google, or if a phone sporting Android as an OS ever ships, none of that matters. What does matter is that, like the iPhone, Android has raised the awareness and expectations around mobile software access, functionality and flexibility. It is good for the ENTIRE industry. (And probably REALLY good for Google shareholders in late 2008 when Android powered handsets hit the streets.)
  4. Frustration of the Year: While in the mobile industry there are many, many frustrations and lots and lots of useless friction, my biggest frustration of 2007 was the lack of widespread, useful location-based services. While there are interesting ones like GPShopper’s S’Lifter, their location and inventory aware mobile comparison shopping service (disclaimer: I used to work at GPShopper, but have no financial stake in them, so this isn’t a plug that benefits me in anyway) or Loopt, the cool, but potentially creepy, location aware mobile social experience, most location aware services leave me cold. I appreciate the intuitive nature of Google Maps, and the burgeoning local directory business that is growing out of those mapping experiences, and, I can say that my TeleNav navigation application on my phone is great, but still, there is not a compelling location-aware application that I would use if I knew how to get where I was going!. Imagine if Zagat’s was location-aware (and profile aware, too…I love sushi, but I am not crazy about Vietnamese, for instance), or if an information source like The Boston Globe A&E Section could me made both location and profile aware too (love folk music, hate dance music) and could tell me where my wife and I should go after we follow the dinner recommendation from location-aware Zagat’s? I want my phone, which has all of my contacts, all of my calendar info, and goes with me everywhere I am, to be a guide in helping me navigate my world in a way that it doesn’t yet. Maybe 2008 will be the location-aware br
    eakthrough year.
  5. Hell Freezes Over Moment of the Year: It has to be Verizon’s “Any App, Any Device” announcement. While the result remains to be seen, the fact that Verizon, of all carriers, the standard bearer of the walled-garden movement, should make this announcement is, frankly, amazing. Verizon’s service is excellent, and I think they are, perhaps, the best carrier in the US. But they have been slow to change and slow to embrace applications and heavy data usage and slow to engage with cutting edge features and phones. Well, everything has changed. This may be an admission that a walled-garden is impossible to maintain, or it may also be an incredibly shrewd move that boosts their profits even higher. Regardless, it is an inflection point in the domestic mobile market.
  6. Service that I Wish Would Die Today: This may upset a few folks, but I hate Twitter. Actually, I have no issue with the service. In some respects, it is very cool, and provides a unique insight into someone’s life. That can be compelling, I suppose, if someone interesting were doing the Twittering. But the constant stream of banality and minutia that spew out of Twitter streams has got to be considered some kind of toxic waste. Listen, unless you are my wife, I don’t care that you are at the mall returning green socks for blue ones, or if you have just eaten a giant cheeseburger before you got on the ferry and you are feeling a little “dairybloat on the boat”. If you are going to Twitter (do Facebook updates, or whatever else) at least use some creativity and lie to me about what you are doing. If I could read Twitter updates that showed me that you were helping universal healthcare get through Congress, or that you were discovering a new way to create carbon eating sneakers that would save the planet just by walking around in them, then I might be interested. As far as I have seen, these kinds of services aren’t worth the time or effort. That is my last curmudgeonly rant of 2007.
  7. Thing That Makes Me Optimistic About Mobile in 2008: There are many things that are exciting about mobile. I guess the biggest excitement in mobile is that software technology is catching up with hardware so that different hardware standards and functionalities are becoming less of an issue. There are a bunch of “write once, run anywhere” companies. I would expect every single one of them to fail. None of them have the juice or resources to keep up with the exploding hardware scene. What will happen is that the world will start to naturally coalesce. The world isn’t about Java and BREW and Symbian, it is about rich internet experiences, it is about compelling content that is available in all sorts of places, it is about me being able to discover a wide world of content from wherever I choose. That won’t happen because of the dominance of a particular abstraction software like Java, it will happen because the mobile and desktop worlds will become the same and we will begin to see the rise of better browsers (Safari, Opera, etc) in the mobile space and that will help create a better experience for users. This is my last prognostication for 2007.

Health and Happiness to all of You in 2008!

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