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Examining the mobile technology trends for 2016

2015 was a big year for mobile -- and 2016 is bound to be even bigger. But what IoT and mobile technology trends can we really expect in the new year? Matthew David offers his take.

Mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT), two technologies inherently connected with one another, have given rise to a market that promises billions of devices. And over the past year, we have seen the following occurrences:

All the companies listed above want to be the mobile leader, and there is a lot of money to be made by the company who wins the next round of technology. Remember: Apple entered the smartphone market in 2007 and has increased the market value of the company 10 times. Now let's look at what the biggest mobile technology trends will be.

The obvious mobile technology trends

There are now some very obvious mobile activities that will come this year that you can write down in your books. These include the following:

  • With the exception of only a couple of years, Apple has always made a technology announcement in March. For several years, it was big changes to Apple's iOS (such as App Store -- that was big) and last year it was the release of the Apple Watch. Expect a new Apple Watch and a new four-inch iPhone to be announced this March. Why? Apple needs to reignite the Apple Watch market (it has stalled but has potential to grow), and there is a big demand for a four-inch iPhone.
  • Microsoft has its annual Build conference late March into early April. The big news will cover more Windows, development tools and IoT tools. Expect the focus to be on developer tools (one tool set to rule them all) and IoT. Microsoft has all but given up on mobile and is now pushing hard into the next tech platform.
  • Google will release a slew of new software and hardware at its annual I/O conference in May. Google is rapidly becoming the company that is innovating. Expect big announcements that cover how Google continues to reign in the distribution of Android and provide updates to all of its Android OSes (Android 6.0/N, Android Wear, Android Auto, Android Health and Android TV). Expect Android to advance significantly -- many saw Android 5.0 as a stabilization version of Android 4.x -- so you may see many new features as well as a maturing of Google's Material Design with Android N.
  • June is the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and there will be updates on iOS 10 (expect it to be called iOS X to align with Mac OS X). The big story will be the coverage for WatchOS and tvOS. The lead story will be tvOS with many new features to align Apple TV with systems such as XBox One and Playstation 4.
  • Amazon will release a slew of tablets and services in August. Amazon, again, is the dark horse that all tech vendors should watch closely and you should consider investing in. Amazon continues to demonstrate dominance in cloud and hosted services.
  • September will be a busy month as Apple releases a slew of new devices. The big story will be iPhone 7. As has been seen in previous years, the new number change will usher in new hard design, new OS and many new features. The challenge Apple is racing toward: Is there anything left that is "magical" to add to the phone?
  • Google is slated to release Android N in October. Watch the CPU announcements at Mobile World Congress in March to see how powerful the end-of-year Android phones will be (consider this: It is common to now have multicore chips in a phone, and many devices are now as powerful as laptop computers).

These are the obvious events for 2016. Post them on your calendar and let me know how accurate I am.

The big story for 2016

There is always one big story that dominates mobile for the year. Arguably, 2015 was the year of wearables, with the update to Microsoft band, Android Wear and Apple's release of Apple Watch. The big story for 2016 is already happening: virtual (or "augmented") reality.

The world of virtual reality is not new. Nintendo entered the market in 1996 with the Virtual Boy. Creating a change for 2016 is the culmination of technology, cheaper parts and a mature market. In 1996, no one was ready for the massively immersive world of virtual reality, but today's world is very different.

The big announcements around virtual reality in 2016 will come from the following companies:

  • Facebook: Oculus is the leader for virtual reality, and they are now owned by Facebook. What is the vision? The limits of imagination.
  • Microsoft: HoloLens is an augmented experience that superimposes 3D objects onto a real world. HoloLens is a transition technology from physical to virtual that may well be what consumers and businesses need.
  • Magic Leap: This hypersecret company has received $875 million in venture capital funding in 2015 (most from Google), and we have yet to see what they have. Magic Leap is the company to watch.
  • Samsung: Samsung is trying to get into virtual reality via an investment in mobile phones. The Samsung Gear VR plugs into your phone and lets you enter a 3D world.

The one company missing from the list is Apple. Recently, Apple bought two more companies to add to its list of virtual reality companies. Expect Apple to enter the virtual reality market in 2017.

How do you prepare for the onslaught?

Is there a way to prepare for the onslaught of new technology? Yes, fortunately, there is. The good news is that most new technology, such as smartwatches and IoT, has a long tail. They do not get adopted overnight. This gives you time to prepare for a rapidly changing world.

Some key areas that you can focus on include ensuring your API strategy is highly scalable. APIs are, in many ways, the only way to future-enable your technologies. This is where your investment must be. In 2016 have one or two proof-of-concept projects to assess the wearable technologies. The final step is to move your iOS development to the Swift programming language and upgrade any older frameworks. Apple has a history of dropping older frameworks very quickly.

Let me know how my predictions pan out. One thing I can guarantee: 2016 will be busy.

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