With the new year upon us, it’s a good time to make resolutions and try to look ahead. Here’s my top ten predictions for 2012.
(1) More double-digit percent-of-workforce layoffs at Nokia and RIM.
A no-brainer here, both businesses are in decline due to the rise of iPhone and Android, so expect 10%-plus of workers at both places to be dismissed.
(2) RIM is acquired by either a private equity group or a carrier.
RIM’s decline has made it the subject of rampant takeover speculation. The Canadian government is a bit in the way and this is usually not taken into consideration. Either a private equity group will take over RIM to break up the pieces and part them out, or possibly more interestingly we could see a new kind of verticalization arrive in the mobile industry.
Imagine Verizon, or even Sprint – although they were really burned by buying NexTel – buying a handset maker and assuring that maker, in this case RIM, premium services and placement. Carriers are in the process of becoming dumb bit pipes and are striving to differentiate some services. Buying a handset maker, giving those handsets premium service for of course, a premium price, might not be a game changer, but it would be a way to fight the inevitable slide towards ever cheaper datarate prices.
(3) Apple kicks out Intel from its lower end laptops.
This is a move that would make Steve Jobs proud and one Tim Cook can call his own. x86 processors are in a zombie-like state of deadness and ARM is the surging present. The logical next step for Apple is to merge their mobile and laptop manufacturing processes by eliminating Intel CPUs from the laptop. This gives Apple even more economies of scale, better power consumption numbers which they will tout to the heavens and puts more pressure on Intel pricing for the higher end desktop system CPUs.
Overlooked in the recent Anobit acquisition is how dependent on Samsung Apple is for flash memory. Apple is taking the long view and buying insurance in case their lawsuits cause Samsung to retaliate on flash memory prices and deliveries. Anobit is Apple taking flash memory internal and moving their laptops to ARM will further Apple’s acquisition of Intrinsity chip designers.
(4) Intel licenses ARM and starts mass manufacturing ARM CPUs.
x86 has had a great run, but it has lost in the marketplace. All the growth is mobile and all the mobile is ARM. This is one kind of diversification Intel is good at: hardware. Forget any mobile-type software from this mammoth cubicle bureaucracy.
(5) Microsoft launches Windows 8 on tablets only.
Microsoft knows that mobile is threatening to eat their Office lunch, but so far Windows Phone 7 has not found a foothold. It’s probably too late for another handheld phone operating system, although Windows Phone 7 has quite a nice user interface and has impressed the usual Microsoft critics. Unfortunately for Redmond the mobile pony has left the barn, so I see efforts to push Windows into tablets redoubled with the vast checkbook they have. By focusing Windows 8 on tablets the conversation will be changed.
(6) Google’s acquisition of Motorola achieves a patent armistice.
It won’t be Andy Rubin’s “patent peace”, but Google didn’t buy Motorola blindly and did due diligence to ensure Moto’s patents can provide Android protection. There will still be skirmishes, but the major player lawsuits will calm down in 2012. Steve Jobs will be rolled over in his grave.
(7) Nokia loses worldwide dominance of mobile devices to Samsung.
Already in the works, white-label devices will continue to eat away at Nokia’s low end offerings and even with some Windows Phone success at the high end, the competitive winds are too stiff. Even the “middle” tier of yesterday’s smartphones-as-new-feature-phones is crumbling under the assault of cheaper Android phones and prediction number (8).
(8) Apple introduces a low priced iPhone for the rest of the world.
Take an iPhone 1, make it smaller, put fewer icons on the screen and Voila! There’s a new iPhone for developing countries and a new path up the Apple product line. Not to be overlooked by this offering is that its real intention is to slow the tide of Android devices and customers becoming accustomed to them.
(9) If Obama loses, Verizon will try to acquire Sprint
This is really more of a 2013 prediction, but if a Republican gets in the White House, then there will be further mobile consolidation. The other way to word this prediction is prediction (9a).
(9a) There will be no major carrier consolidation in 2012.
The FCC torpedoing AT&T grabbing T-Mobile has frozen the playing field for now.
(10) Google will acquire Foursquare
A bit of a reach, but Google accurately senses its vulnerability to social networks and has failed with its current offerings. Expect more energy, more Muppets and more everything put into Google+. Facebook bought up Gowalla, but this was a talent buy and they’ve ditched the location-ness of Gowalla to part out their engineering team to Facebook Timeline.
Yelp has a better database than Foursquare, but they’ve already turned down Google. The VCs backing Foursquare want out: either through IPO or acquisition. Foursquare just isn’t generating the revenue needed for a decent IPO, so I expect them to be acquired.
Overall look for an incremental year of mobile fun. I see lots of minor improvements, but no earth-shattering paradigm-smashing announcements. There will be Google TV, but no one will care. Well, maybe in 2013.
See you next year.