Devesh has been tied up for the last couple of weeks tying up things for the end of the year and traveling over the holidays, so I thought I would step in and provide a look back at the year that was in mobile and what to expect in 2010. Yes, it is a bit of cliché given that everyone does it, but I wanted to add our perspective on 2009.

Overall, it’s been a fun year. We started blogging back in March, not knowing what to expect. Luckily, it was a busy year in mobile, so we were never short of material to discuss. Here’s a sampling of the more interesting stories of the year:

Mobile internet or app?
The App Store absolutley exploded over the past year, with well over 100,000 apps available by the end of the year. The popularity of the App Store had everyone wanting to create an app for their product or brand, but we feel differently. The emergence of the mobile internet over the past year has made web apps every bit as good as apps for promoting and marketing brands and products. I predict that 2010 will be the turning point for the mobile internet and that web apps will become the dominant theme in mobile entering 2011. (For more background, see our mobile internet vs app series from earlier this year)

The rise of Android
Handset manufacturers finally embraced the Google-sponsored platform in 2009, and the arrival of the T-mobile MyTouch, HTC Hero, and Motorola Droid demonstrated the capabilities of the platform. Be prepared for a lot more Android activity in 2010.

Palm excited with the Pre, but botched the execution
Palm tried to recapture the market mojo it had with the Treo, but development kit delays, a poorly arranged exclusivity with the nations’s 3rd largest carrier Sprint, and a losing battle with Apple over iTunes syncing all contributed to the Pre’s less than stellar sales. Palm will try again in 2010 by launching the Palm Pre with Verizon at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.

Motorola excited with the Droid, and delivered
Motorola, all but written off for dead in the handset market, created a huge stir with all the ads leading up to the November launch of the Droid. With the help of Verizon, Motorola delivered the best Android, and possible best overall, phone of the year. Sales of the device have been brisk, and customers of the nation’s largest phone network finally got a device to rival the iPhone.

Microsoft continued to fade into oblivion
With a lackluster launch of WinMo 6.5, and further delays to WinMo 7, Microsoft saw further losses in market share. In the court of perception, WinMo is now a distant challenger to Apple, Android and BlackBerry in the smartphone OS battles. Rumor has it that Microsoft is going to link Xbox live to WinMo 7, but that may be too little too late for the much and often maligned Redmond giant.

Battle of the behomeths I: Google vs Apple
Google and Apple started the year on friendly terms, but didn’t finish it that way. It started with Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice app in the App Store, continued with Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s resignation from the Apple board in August, and then continued with a written sparring match with the FCC over the Google Voice rejection. It’s clear that companies once termed “frenemies” can officially drop the ‘fr’ from that title.

Battle of the behomeths II: Verizon vs AT&T
In preparation for its Droid launch, Verizon went straight after AT&T and Apple with a great set of commercials (“There’s a map for that”) and edgy Droid promotional ads. AT&T complained to the government about Verizon’s tactics, before finally relenting and striking back with an ad campaign of its own. The best AT&T could were a few not-so-funny Luke Wilson ads. So thankfully, Apple stepped in defended its most prized possession. I suspect that the end of 2009 was the only the beginning of this battle – I’m sure we’ll see a lot more AT&T/Verizon battles in 2010.

2009 was exciting, so what should we expect in 2010? Here’s a sampling:

  • Android rises – Reports have it that 50 or more handsets will be released in 2010 with Android. I expect 2010 to be the year that Android makes a dent in smartphone OS market share and challenges the iPhone for market dominance.
  • BlackBerry stagnates – RIM has been on a roll in 2009, but that will end in 2010. An aging product line and recent service woes are going to encourage people to start taking a serious look at Android and other alternatives.
  • Google goes “all-in” – Expect Google to use its warchest to make significant moves in the mobile space. Mobile will be bigger than the desktop. Google knows it, and they are not going to sit around and watch someone else dominate it – especially Apple or Microsoft.
  • Apple innovates, again – Let’s face it, the iPhone is great, but it is getting stale. A 3+ year old design is ancient in the mobile world. Apple will have something up its sleeve in 2010 – be it a new design, better software options, or a tablet of some sort.
  • Nokia struggles to find itself – Nokia, the giant of the mobile industry, is going through an identity crisis. The largest, and most dominant, handset maker in the world is losing mindshare at the high end but still dominates the low end. Can Nokia dominate both ends of the market? I don’t think so, and the sooner Nokia picks which end to focus on, the better off they’ll be.
  • Microsoft and Palm flounder – Neither will go away next year, but they’ll both continue bleeding. Microsoft has enough other business interests that it will continue to toil away and try to find an entry point in mobile. For Palm, an acquisition may be in the cards as it cannot continue to lose cash at its current rate and remain independent into 2011.
  • Apps lose their luster – With too many app stores and platforms to support, the viability of the app model will erode. Developers will move back to the web and the smartphone app will become an area of specialty development focused on games – web apps and the mobile internet will fill the void.
  • Expect the unexpected – In an explosive market like mobile, expect at least two or three things to happen that will be serious game changers that no one sees coming. Augmented reality, location-based services, and geo-targeted advertising come to mind, but I get the feeling there are a couple more ideas in mobile that will surprise us in 2010.

Thanks to everyone who followed and supported us in 2009. It’s been a great ride thus far, and we’re looking forward to a fun and exciting 2010.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010.