When it comes to the nuances of the mobile landscape, there are not many people out there more knowledgeable than analyst Chetan Sharma. We have long relied on the work of Sharma at ReadWriteWeb to inform our own reporting and opinions about where the mobile industry is going. For the start of 2012, Sharma turned it around. He surveyed a wide swath of insiders to determine what the biggest stories were in 2011 and how the industry will evolve in the new year.
By consensus, the top story was the rise of Android and its dominance over the ecosystem. A close second was the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The Kindle Fire, intellectual property battles and "other" issues round out the top five. Who will succeed in 2012? How will developers make money? What will be the breakthrough category in mobile in 2012? Sharma's results are below.
Google The Most "Open"
This may come as a joke to most many industry followers, but Sharma's insiders vote Google the "most open player in the mobile ecosystem" for 2012. Granted, the options are not that much better, but Google rocked the competition with a little less than 70% of the vote while no other player, including Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, the carriers, OEMs or Amazon got more than 10%. This is the fourth year that Google has been the most open in the mobile according to Sharma's polls, though the percentage has been decreasing since its peak in 2010.
So much for "clopen?"
Really, there is a lot more to being "open" than just the vague espoused by the so-called "clopen" argument - that Android is open to developers but not particularly so to users. Google has made the entire Ice Cream Sandwich source code available online to anybody that knows how to use it. Are there problems with the update process? Certainly. But, you do not see anybody trying to put iOS/webOS/Windows Phone on the Kindle Fire or HP TouchPad.
The insiders are still high on mobile payments as the breakthrough category for 2012. There were a lot of advancements in mobile payments in 2011 but the thought of paying with your smartphone is still more of a dream than reality for most consumers. About 23% of consumers have now warmed up to the notion of mobile payments according to a recent report. The next breakthrough category is mCommerce followed by mHealth, enterprise and near field communications. Sharma's insiders are not nearly so high on mobile advertising as they were a year ago.
The survey predicts that the financial sector will be the leader in mobile payments. This fits in with what we have seen in the latter half of 2011 where the technology and financial sectors started to merge. No other company or industry vertical got more than 20% of the vote, with the cellular operators (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and startups (Square, Dwolla, LevelUp) competing in the space.
Movers & Shakers
What company is going to make the biggest mobile acquisition in 2012? The group thinks that Microsoft has the biggest potential to purchase something large. Many of the pundits in the survey probably think that Microsoft will be forced to make some kind of major plunge like putting in a takeover bid for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion or going all the way with Nokia and just dragging the company under the Redmond umbrella.
Google, as always, is could be a viper ready to strike and snap up a large mobile company. It has done so before and surprised the industry each time, with both AdMob and Motorola. The carriers are likely to make more content and developer acquisitions in the coming years than they have previously showed interest in before.
The most influential person in mobile last year was Steve Jobs, followed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Android creator Andy Rubin came in fourth behind ... Angry Birds?!
Mobile Web, Native Apps, Monetization & The Cloud
Is 2012 going to be the Year of the Mobile Web? Most of the respondents said that the "mobile Web will start to become more relevant." About 13% fewer answered that "apps will continue to dominate" than did so in 2011.
Mobile cloud computing will increase in 2012. That includes people tying data services to their smartphones but also developers tying their applications to the cloud. Enterprise is the leading use-case for the mobile clouds with storage and media each taking 20% and apps close behind at 19%.
You can see the full survey results from Sharma's insiders here.
Overall, we can use Sharma's survey as an accurate roadmap of what to expect in 2012. More mobile Web, more cloud, more disruption while Android and Apple dominate and the rest of the ecosystem has to play catch up.
There are 20 questions in total in Sharma's survey. Head on over and let us know how you would answer each of the survey questions in the comments.