Mobile and Wireless 2016 Recap and 2017 Outlook

Gerry Purdy J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst, Mobile and Wireless | LinkedIn

Mobile and Wireless 2016 Recap and 2017 Outlook


Each new year, I enjoy looking back and recapping major accomplishments that occurred in mobile and wireless technologies as well as forecasting about what may be coming in the next year.


Here’s a recap of significant milestones that occurred last year in the world of mobile and wireless technology:

Wireless becomes almost pervasive. Cellular – in particular LTE wireless broadband – is getting better, and Wi-Fi is available in most public places; but you can’t rely on it in remote geography, on all flights (particularly over the ocean), nor can you rely on it at full throttle. You still have to think about it, or in the case of flying or staying at some hotels, pay separately for it. But in 2017, wireless access will get a lot better; serving more remote areas than ever.

Apps migrate from silos to integrated services. Apps migrating from silos to integrated services is still on the list. There have been some attempts to provide more integrated services in apps, but the transition to that vision is still in the future. Wearables and IoT have taken off; but, there’s still more hype than reality… so there’s a long way to go.

Wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) take off. For the past few years, the IoT segment has been over-hyped to the public. Today, it is finally poised to enter mass adoption phase. Many of the new products being announced at CES are related to either wearables or IoT. And, regarding the wearables sector, CES is putting on a “Living in Digital Times” fashion show to demonstrate the possibilities. Look for this to become a very big market in the next few years with rapidly increased production rates, rates of connectivity, and the rise in security measures for these devices.

Cars become semi-autonomous through Super Cruise Control. Super Cruise Control did come true, as it is now a feature of most high-end cars. You set it just like normal cruise control, but once set, you not only take your foot off the pedal; you also take your hands off the steering wheel. Friends tell me it is very scary – almost frightening – the first time you try it out, as we are conditioned to man all controls.


It appears to me that we’ll truly see a number of major developments in wireless during 2017. These include:

Decrease in Regulation. It’s a safe bet that President-Elect Trump will appoint a new Chairman of the FCC who will undo much of the regulation that was created under the Obama Administration and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. As you may recall, Chairman Wheeler originally proposed laws that would allow for special high-speed traffic lanes on the digital highway. This was changed when Obama wanted the Internet to be regulated like a utility. The current plan encompasses highly-regulated Internet so as not to allow fast lanes or collection of information for advertising without the user’s awareness (and, yet, still allowing companies like Google to do just that). If we get a real visionary as the new Chairman of the FCC, we could see a number of innovations such as: 1) spectrum sharing over many different frequencies, 2) assistance for the digital “have nots” in rural areas and suffering inner cities who need high speed, low cost internet access, and 3) new advanced technologies that will help accelerate the adoption of 5G pervasive wireless.

Benefit: More spectrum enables more innovation which, in turn, will help create more jobs.

Autonomous Driving. There’s a lot of press coverage of the coming autonomous, driverless cars. At first, it will be provided as a service from companies like Uber; but then autonomous driving will come to your favorite car model. You’ll input the destination address and the Uber car will pick you up and take you there. While that seems like science fiction, we have already seen Uber test out its driverless cars in Pittsburgh, with more cities in the works. There are, however, some complexities that have not been addressed in driverless cars such as:

  • An Uber driver told me a couple of months ago of pulling into the driveway to pick up someone who happened to be in a wheelchair. She asked him to put the wheelchair in the trunk of his car. He asked me, “How is a driverless car going do that?”
  • One morning, I was going to the Atlanta airport to catch a flight. When we drove by a Krispy Kreme (we all have one sin or another), I proposed to the driver that if he would pull in, I’d get four hot donuts and give him two as a commission for the diversion. How does a driverless car manage that, or any side trip, that’s not on the schedule?
  • How does an autonomous car handle driving inside a large parking garage that isn’t pre-wired for supporting driverless cars?

Benefit: Clearly, automating the driving experience, especially on major highways, will result in decreased automobile-related deaths. Another benefit is increased jobs in the transportation sector, especially in the software engineering arena as they create these new systems.

Watches Will Become More Pervasive. The SmartWatch market is taking hold as the Apple Watch grows in both popularity and sales. People who have them tell me that they love its ability to look up people, call and get messages via Siri. I believe that 75-80% of people will be wearing a SmartWatch within a few years. Eventually, the SmartWatch will gain full client status and have GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular. There will also be an increase in biological sensor additions. When that happens, wearing the watch while out and about will be a full cellular experience.

Benefit: One real benefit will be to parents who want to keep track of children, potentially reducing the number of child abductions. For adults, the SmartWatch will likely have its most significant benefit in the monitoring of various biological markers that, in turn, will help people stay healthier and avoid health threats such as heart attacks and strokes.

Streaming Takes Over Owning Content. I mentioned in last year’s Outlook for 2016 that we’re seeing a clear trend toward streaming of music vs. owning it. While I still buy music on iTunes, streaming music sites like Apple Music and Spotify will have virtually all of the music ever recorded, therefore transitioning to become the norm. Other services like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Hulu seem to own more of the rights to TV shows, videos and movies; but Apple may be able to develop a service that represents a total media hub. The challenge with streaming so much content (music, TV shows, movies and videos) is the discovery of interesting content (finding out what you are interested in) vs. searching for things you already know about. Most services are going to allow for downloading your favorite play list, TV show and movie.

Benefit: Increase in productivity when it comes to finding media. In the past, finding media has been the biggest challenge. It is likely that Artificial Intelligence could be applied to many more sectors besides music.  Netflix, Spotify and Pandora do provide some recommendations on what to listen to or watch. And, Amazon is already using Big Data and AI methods. Content is migrating from owning to streaming in many other sectors besides media.

Cloud Takes Over Apps. It’s clear that the Cloud is taking over from local apps. It hasn’t happened in mobile as local apps are still the norm, although some mobile apps do interact with the Cloud. There will be more mobile services that are driven by the Cloud over time.

Benefit: Services will be more prevalent in both consumer (Amazon’s ‘people who bought x often bought y’) and enterprise (using AI to integrate information across multiple apps to provide insight on a topic, e.g. “The customer has likely utilized product x” and prompts a trigger to ask if they might like to re-order).

Flash Replaces Hard Disk Drives. It wasn’t but a decade ago that hard disk drives (HDD) powered all computers – even the original high capacity iPods. But, as mobile grew, so did the need for solid state storage and the ability to make it much more cheaply, causing Flash storage to overtake almost all mobile devices. There are some laptop models that still use HDD, but I expect the entire market to be all Flash within the next two years. What an amazing transition in such a short time!

Benefit: Solid state Flash drives don’t wear out, so you never have a failure that corrupts your information.

Messaging as a Platform.. I have written a lot during this past year about the changes in mobile messaging – that it is becoming a platform, and how a number of firms are integrating a total end-to-end security and privacy that cannot be broken. You’ll see many new services come to messaging platforms this year including banking with intelligent bots that do the work of powerful mobile apps. Both consumers and enterprise services will undergo a transformation to messaging as a comprehensive platform.

Benefit: Clearly adding service bots to messaging platforms can help both consumers (e.g. ordering pizza while messaging a friend) and enterprises (e.g. reminders like “Finish your sales report by end of day”).

Security Will Still Be a Concern.. Mobile has joined desktop as a target for hacking, due to a rise in usage of mobile platforms that hold large amounts of consumer and enterprise information. It is important for enterprises to develop comprehensive policies and make sure that they are followed. Work with your MDM vendor to ensure that your mobile platforms are secure and stay that way. It takes diligence and commitment to ensure that the back door isn’t left open at night, or that someone is gaining access when you’re not paying attention. It’s also important to realize that you need to protect the entire ecosystem – from access to the mobile device (authentication) to the storage on the device to the communications link to managing the end of life of the device.

Benefit: Any improvements in any of the security ecosystem that will help prevent hacks or theft of proprietary information is beneficial to your organization.


In past years, I typically had a full wish list – a list of many things I wanted to see happen in the mobile market. But this year, I only have one: that Apple would build an Apple version of the Microsoft Surface Book Pro. Apple has all the pieces necessary to build a Surface Book Pro equivalent. It has a great laptop in the MacBook Pro, a great tablet in the iPad, and a touch sensitive display in the iPad and Touch ID for user authentication. It also has the Apple Pencil with the ability to control all mobile apps, and it can be utilized for intelligent drawing in PowerPoint and Keynote.

I realize this is a really a big wish, but there has been talk that some people are turning in their MacBook Pro for a Microsoft Surface Book Pro. Migrating to the MacBook Pro Tablet instead of migrating to a Microsoft Surface Book Pro would be an ideal answer to my wish.

Apple’s current mobile scenario currently requires you to carry both a laptop (MacBook Pro) and a tablet (iPad). But, with the MacBook Pro Tablet, users would get both in one package. Here’s the way it would work:

  • When the smart keyboard is plugged in (that provides the same keyboard experience as a full laptop), the unit operates as a MacBook Pro with full macOS, file system and networking support.
  • When the user detaches the smart keyboard from the display, the unit immediately switches over to load iOS and provides the user with a full iPad experience.
  • Attach the smart keyboard again, and the system immediately switches back over to operate as a full MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Pro Tablet gives the users who love the MacBook and iPad a chance to operate both of them in one form factor. Yes, when the smart keyboard is separated from the display unit you have two units, but it only operates as a MacBook when it the smart keyboard is attached, and it only operates as an iPad when the smart keyboard is detached.

Longer term, Apple will most likely integrate iOS and macOS into one code base, but that will take a number of years to resolve many important software architectural issues such as how to resolve the file management system – which is more of a soup architecture in the iPad and more of a traditional file/folder management system in the Mac.

TheMacBook Pro Tablet is definitely my dream product. Will it actually get developed and into the market? Perhaps not. But, an analyst can dream, right?

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017 to you and yours from AOTMP.

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