March 25, 2010, 12:00 AM

Mobile matters: Gartner names mobile trends to watch this year and next

As mobile phones, apps and e-commerce sites evolve, so will technology to improve browsing the web, buying and, well, doing just about anything from a smartphone. Garner has released a list of mobile trends to look out for this year and next.

As mobile phones, apps and e-commerce sites evolve, so will technology to improve browsing the web, buying and, well doing just about anything from a smartphone. Research and advisory firm Garner Inc. has released a Top 10 list for companies to look out for this year and into 2011.

"We are highlighting these 10 mobile technologies that should be on every organization`s radar screen," says Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "These mobile technologies were selected because they will evolve in ways that affect corporate strategies, significant numbers of customers or employees will adopt or expect them, or they will address particular mobile challenges that organizations will face through 2011."

Of the 10 trends on Gartner’s list, here are the six most relevant to e-commerce companies :

The mobile web

By 2011, over 85% of handsets shipped globally will include a browser, Gartner predicts. Additionally the firm predicts that in mature mobile markets, such as Western Europe and Japan, 60% of handsets shipped will be smartphones with sophisticated browsing capabilities and the ability to render conventional HTML sites.

The growth in smartphones with relatively large and high-resolution screens will prompt more consumers to access conventional web sites, such as e-commerce sites, on mobile devices, Gartner says.

Mobile apps or widgets

Apps, web applications that consumers can load onto their smartphones, use technologies such as JavaScript and HTML. Many smartphones support apps running, and consumers can put them on the opening screen of their phones, where they are easily visible and accessible, Gartner says. Retailers are signing on to the trend, offering both informational and shopable apps for smartphones. The total number of retail mobile sites and apps now tops 190, according to Internet Retailer research. For example, retailer Musician’s Friend offers a mobile site and an app, and is building three more mobile sites to cater to specific customers.

Platform-independent mobile application development tools

According to author of the list, Nick Jones, by 2012 five or more mobile platforms may have a significant presence. They include such platforms as Symbian, Android, Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry. Therefore, tools that can make it easy for marketers to deliver applications to several platforms will be very attractive.

“Platform-independent application development tools cannot deliver a ‘write once, run anywhere’ equivalent to native code; however, they can significantly reduce the cost of delivering and supporting multiplatform applications that provide a more sophisticated experience than the mobile web and operate outside signal coverage.”

App Stores
As apps grow, so will the stores to support them, Gartner predicts. While Apple Inc.’s app store is front and center now, Gartner predicts more such stores, especially overseas.

“App stores will be the primary (and, in some cases, the only) way to distribute applications to smartphones and other mobile devices,” Gartner says.

Gartner adds the stores will provide a range of business support functions, such as payment processing, that assist smaller organizations, and predicts they will be a distribution channel for mobile applications, a commercial channel to sell applications and content and that they will provide new options for application sourcing.

Location Awareness
By the end of 2011, over 75% of devices shipped in mature markets will include a GPS, Gartner says. GPS will be the primary, but not the only, means of establishing handset location. Wi-Fi and cell ID systems will remain important in situations where GPS is unavailable or unreliable. Hints of retailers capitalizing on this are already beginning to emerge. Google last week announced a test of a program that uses such location-specific marketing, enabling consumers to check inventory of local stores on their mobile phones.

The popularity of location-aware handsets will enable a wide range of applications geared to where the consumer is, and will serve as a foundation for more sophisticated contextual applications, such as location-specific advertising and promotions. But marketers should be cautious, Gartner warns. “Organizations must be sensitive to local privacy regulations, ensure that applications that expose location are ‘opt in,’ and remain on alert for new risks and concerns that will be raised by location awareness.”

Touchscreens

Touchscreen phones will account for 60% of mobile devices shipped in Western Europe and North America in 2011, Gartner says. Businesses researching the possibility of developing smartphone apps or web sites may want to consider multitouch interfaces to give their applications a compelling and competitive user experience, Gartner says.

The other categories in Gartner’s Top 10 list include: bluetooth, cellular broadband, machine-to-machine and device independent security. Machine-to-machine is data communication between two machines.

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