20 questions for 2015

I wrote a detailed post a few weeks ago looking at some of the key structural questions in mobile – with the platform wars over (their first phase, at least), what’s happening to Android, what will happen to interaction models and so on. But it’s also worth looking at just how much could change just in 2015 – or even in January. Everything is wide open. So, here, in no special order, are 20 questions for 2015, any one of which would change things a lot. I’ve written about most of these topics already in 2014 – in 2015 they’re even more interesting. 

  1. Will Facebook relaunch Messenger as a Wechat-style sharing and discovery platform – which would be Facebook’s first real ‘native’ mobile experience? I doubt David Marcus joined to add stickers, after all. Link
  2. If Messenger is a move up the stack, will Facebook try something further down, or did it decide to give up after the failure of Home?
  3. Will we find out how much of Facebook’s explosive mobile ad revenue is app installs? 
  4. How will Amazon follow the failure of the Fire Phone? Will it try a (much) cheaper price – say $200 unsubsidised, even though the US pricing structure makes that much harder than elsewhere? 
  5. Will we see the ‘Fire’ platform on devices from other OEMs? The Google contract forbids selling both Google’s, closed Android devices and open ones, but a new OEM might not care. Link
  6. Will we get resolution on the Android versus Chrome division? I can see one scenario in which Android becomes a legacy run-time on top of Chrome phones, with Google moving everything back towards the web. 
  7. Does Google double down on Glass or (officially) give up? Launch another new Labs project? Or wait for Magic Leap?
  8. Will we start seeing more open Android devices on sale outside China and emerging markets? Which if any Chinese OEMs will come to Europe, or will that be for new, local companies? Will they try to become premium players – will Lenovo succeed where Huawei and ZTE failed? And (if they want to) can they get away without Google services? Link
  9. Does Samsung bounce back with another successful pivot?
  10. Will a well-known OEM exit the phone market, or get bought? (Sony and HTC look like candidates, or even RIM)
  11. How far will Microsoft pursue its new ‘it doesn’t need to be on our OS’ approach? It’s already taken Office to iOS and Android, but how much might it try to leverage open Android?  
  12. How well will the Apple Watch sell? And more importantly, what does ‘well’ mean? A great financial result might not be enough to change the broader market environment and have second-order effects changing the direction of app interaction models on smartphones – but still be a big loyalty driver for repeat iPhone purchases (say). Link
  13. What other new things does Apple have planned? Is this the year that the content rights finally align to let it launch a new TV product? What would that look like? Would it be as (superficially) benign to the TV industry as Apple Pay is to the card companies, or more directly destabilising? Link
  14. Also, Apple Music? Cloud? Will we start seeing some of the blind spots being filled in?
  15. The annual question – will Apple try to take more of the midrange with a $3-400 handset, or continue to leave that to old models and second-hand? Link
  16. Where will Apple and Google take the interaction model and integration model in WWDC/IO 2015? Integrate Uber and Lyft into the OS? Move into messaging? Into Social? With new meta-platforms starting to emerge on top of the OS layer, what do the people who own that layer do about it? Link
  17. Will tablet sales continue to be flat or will the balance of replacement and user growth shift towards growing (or shrinking) sales? Link
  18. Is this the year that the Bitcoin blockchain starts producing real consumer products? If so, they’ll be on mobile first
  19. Do concepts like the Samsung Gear VR take off? What if Apple/Google try to bake the capability into the OS this summer?
  20. Finally, the most interesting thing to happen this year is almost certainly not on this list. One reason tech is so fun is that you only really start understanding things at the point they become irrelevant – there are always new questions.