Mobile 2012: More coming than just the 'iPad 3'

Two massive industry shakeups, a reworked Android ecosystem, and more are on the horizon

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way: Yes, Virginia, Apple will offer a new iPad model (the so-called iPad 3 that gets so many rumor reports) this year -- likely in March or April, as it has for the last two years. What will be in it? Only Apple knows for sure, but probable enhancements include support for LTE 4G networks, perhaps multicarrier models, perhaps NFC (near-field communications) support, and perhaps a higher-resolution screen. Odds are a new iPhone will debut in the summer or fall, again as it has every year since 2007, and have LTE support, now that the carriers have serious deployments in place of this faster cellular technology, plus NFC support if the so-called iPad 3 gets it. Less likely is support for the new 802.11ac faster Wi-Fi standard, though you can bet it'll appear at some point as market presence increases.

But there's going to be a lot more action this year in mobile than just what Apple does. In fact, I expect 2012 to be an even more exciting year for mobile than even the wild 2011, where we saw Apple's iPhone outsell Research in Motion's BlackBerry in the enterprise, where former mobile superstars RIM, Microsoft, and Nokia all made Hail Mary moves to stay relevant in the mobile market, where Hewlett-Packard promised big and delivered little, and businesses moved past their fear of user-driven mobile technology and began to take it seriously as a new tool for employees.

[ Learn about consumerization of IT in person March 4-6, 2012, at IDG's CITE conference in San Francisco. | Windows 8 is coming, and InfoWorld can help you get ready with the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report, which explains Microsoft's bold new direction for Windows, the new Metro interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7, and more. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]

Google finally gets its Android act together
There's no question in my mind that Android smartphones will continue to grow in adoption, becoming the new cellphone for everyday users. I believe, however, that Android's reach into corporate environments will lag, as the chaos of the Android marketplace -- its multiple Android OS versions, the various skins from the device makers, and the inconsistent use of security and management capabilities -- simply makes the cost too high for IT and users alike to let Android devices gain more than basic access to enterprise resources.

Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" will help; it's a much smoother, better-integrated OS than its predecessors, but its slow start in terms of product availability does not bode well. Nor does the fact that Google favors a couple device makers (Samsung, mainly, and perhaps Motorola Mobility once it's completed that acquisition) and then let the others work off the open source release of Android. That encourages the second-class Android makers to cut corners or add unhelpful "differentiators" such as their own UI skins. Perhaps that's why HTC and other Android device makers have faded in terms of sales.

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