The 7 Most Promising “Mobile” Trends Toward Tomorrow

It has been decided that this is the last month for the Opera Mobile Store Blog for Mobile Developers.  Since it was started, its primary objective has focused on ways to help developers achieve financial success.  It has covered a lot of ground from design and business development to marketing and distribution, and much more.  My last few posts will take aim at what will prove most interesting, and likely profitable, for the future of mobile apps.

The future is here, it is just not evenly distributed – William Gibson.

Seven broad categories of development are of special interest:

  • eSports
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Internet of Things
  • Real Time Translation
  • Digital Money
  • Human Augmentation
  • Artificial Intelligence

eSports is still comparatively young, but is a rapidly growing niche with strong marketing and monetization potential.  Over 27 million people watched the League of Legends World Championship last year and many top players have hundreds of thousands of followers and hundreds of millions of page views.  Creating the next eSport sensation is a longshot.  But, developing apps for existing eSports and using cross-promotional or other marketing tools to reach this market is viable.  This deserves special consideration in that competitive gaming tends to draw a higher proportion of super-users (top 5% of spenders) with carry over on active fan sites.

Free Trade Agreements - Though much more abstract as concerns the mobile app developer, free trade facilitates the opening of new markets, expansion of existing markets, and better monetization potential for most markets.  Four major agreements have been or are in the process of being made, including:

  • TransPacific Partnership (TTP – North America and Asia),
  • TransAtlantic Investment and Trade Partnership (TTIP – North America and the European Union),
  • New Silk Road (China, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe)
  • EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (EU and Ukraine)

The impact of free trade will apply in several directions as relates to products, services, markets, wages and the creation of infrastructure to bring improved internet capabilities to developing markets.

It is appropriate to remember that both Singapore and Hong Kong were relatively undeveloped markets in the 1960’s but are both now have a GDP per capita ranking of #3 and #10, respectively.  Developing a market today can be accomplished much faster and while we are not likely to see such a meteoric rise of today’s developing markets, we will see a gradual evening out.  China, itself, is poised to be the #1 largest economy in the world suffice that global mobile dynamics are changing and generally favoring high-growth developing markets over saturated high-income markets.

The bottom line for developers is the reach for your marketing and advertising dollar as measured in downloads and average lifetime value of your end-users.

Internet of Things   –  Still young but overlapping with numerous technologies and endless devices, IoT is rapidly picking up steam.  Per Business Insider, the Internet of Things will add 24 Billion more devices and see over $6 Trillion in spending through 2020 and inherently ties into issues of Free Trade.  For developers, this opens the potential for developing apps enabling control platforms (smartphones, tablets, computers) to interact with a broader range of peripheral devices.

Much more than all of this is the ages-old belief in the “connectedness of all things” – it translates philosophy into common practice.  This has an inherent impact on marketing in that if you create apps for smartphones that can interact with toasters, that you could also be in the business of selling toasters.  The line by which “one thing ends and the next begins” will become increasingly blurred.

Real Time Translation - The ability for you to speak in English and your audience to hear you in Portuguese or Chinese is developing rapidly.  Granted, it may take a few more years to perfect; the more people who use this technology, the faster it will improve.  Real time translation capabilities will make it easier for everyone to do business on an international basis.

Digital Money   -  This is an epically complex matter driven not only by technology but by governments seeking to limit organized crime, terrorism, tax evasion, etc.; along with other far-reaching geo-political and corporate interests in connection with and tangential to free trade.

But of some practical value to developers is the fact that the ability for anyone with a digital device to make a digital purchase will become progressively easier.  One of the major constraints of developing markets until recently has been the difficulty for the end-user to make a purchase via the payment processor the developer is using.  This was an early mistake by many companies who asserted that, “People in developing markets don’t buy things.”  They do buy things, including smart phones and data plans.  The pay walls are gradually coming down.

Human Augmentation  - Some will consider this over the top, but we are moving in this direction.   Aside from overlapping with the Internet of Things and Real Time Translations, potentially the most practical… or perhaps interesting, technology relates to how we interact with computers – and especially how we “see” the data on computers.

One of the characteristics of mobile apps has been that they need to be designed for smaller screens.  It is one thing to work with a 16 inch computer monitor and another to work on a 4” x 6” screen (or smaller).  The gap between personal computers and mobile devices will continue to close, but the single greatest hurdle is the screen size.  One direction being explored could make your eyes the mirror of your CPU.

Most issues of human augmentation will not achieve an economy of scale for several years yet.  Oculus Rift became a household name with a $2 Billion acquisition for taking VR to the next level.  There is the potential for an ambitious company able to create a safe, easy to use, non-invasive device to do the same – and there will be the demand for corresponding software and apps.

And Artificial Intelligence.  While subject to endless debate, there are a few practical points to be made.  Many games of yesteryear failed largely because they didn’t provide enough of a challenge in solo-play.  This is as much a game design as it is a logic design issue.  Several companies are pursuing the development of AI and contrary to what the naysayers would like everyone to believe; each step in the development of an AI makes the next step in its development faster and easier – if in relative terms.  Whether we reach the point of Singularity is almost irrelevant in that each step in that direction facilitates faster, easier developments, almost on an endless loop basis.

Practically speaking?  It is not too much of a stretch to imagine it will be possible, one day, for app developers to focus almost exclusively on game design while providing an interface for an external AI to handle the logic of playing it (against humans)… with different difficulty levels.

Presently, most games provide the computer opponent lots of advantages while providing the human opponent various handicaps.  With a proper AI, those dynamics would likely be reversed.  It is hard to get game balance “just right for everyone.”  This has the potential to resurrect some much older game titles that could have been totally awesome games if only they were a challenge to play.

A look back to see where we are headed…

All of these topics could be explored in much greater depth – and I encourage you to do so.  Some of these points may be a bit of a stretch “today” – but tomorrow?  The first computer game I played was Pong, followed by games like Space Invaders, Pacman… Zork, Ultima before there was an Ultima II, back when the closest thing anyone had to the Internet was a local BBS (Bulletin Board System) relying upon ASCII… for graphics.

Now, we are talking about technologies that may be able to “digitize your brain” so that theoretically some part of “you” can exist “forever.”  Now, we aren’t talking about monochrome monitors, but holograms.  We aren’t using dot matrix printers and carbon paper much anymore, but literally using 3D printers to print houses.   I remember buying an IBM Selectric III for $1.00.

It’s on this basis that I tend to think less of what the state of technology is today and question what it will be tomorrow.  I remember when the common consensus was that the Internet was a passing fad despite all statistics to the contrary.  Those who assert “IT IS POSSIBLE” are proven correct infinitely more times than those who say the opposite.

History and Technology are not on the side of those who say, “It can’t be done.”

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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