Technology: Jamie Riddell looks at what 2013 might hold in store

As 2012 draws to a close, what can we expect to see on the digital landscape of 2013? Let’s first look at what the consumer is doing...

The consumer is increasingly mobile, a trend that will start to dominate thinking and planning in 2013 and beyond. There are a number of signs mobile is becoming ‘the’ future platform.

Figures form Black Friday (the key US holiday shopping day after Thanksgiving) identified that 24% of all online purchases were made from mobile device. Up from just 6% of all purchases in 2010. 24% of a total $1BN spent digitally on Black Friday shows it is an important platform for revenue.

This growth in mobile usage is also just the tip of the iceberg. More tablets were shipped in Q4 2010 than PCs and, now, more microchips are produced for mobile devices than for computers. This growth will now be felt in in Q2 2013 (predicts Morgan Stanley) as the installed base of tablets (people actually using them day to day) overtakes desktop and notebook (laptop) computers for the first time.

So we can see that mobile will be a key platform in 2013, now what are the major players doing in 2013?

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In broad view, each of the major players is trying to get you ‘hooked’ into their ecosystem. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google are all trying to direct your behaviour by managing the entry point of your digital lifestyle - the mobile device. So with these four players all seeking your loyalty, what can we expect from them next year?

Microsoft is pegging a lot of hope on its Windows 8 operating system and their mobile devices. Right now, that isn’t going so well. But it still has a market dominance in Office Software which will be installed on most of your computers. From that base, Microsoft will be keen to offer you more business tools including integrated Skype, and data from Linkedin. Their purchase this year of Yammer will help collaborative team communications (think Instant Messaging across your business.)

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Right now we don’t know what Amazon will do in 2013, but we suspect it will be something BIG! Late in November, Amazon quietly raised a bond offering which would give them around $2bn spending money. That would buy you two instagrams or a quarter of Skype. So, it means they can buy something big. Perhaps they will move from supporting consumers to targeting businesses? They already own Amazon Web Services, one of the world’s most used cloud platforms.

Apple could do nothing new in 2013 and still maintain a dominant position in the market. I suspect we will see further iterations of the iPhone, pictures of a rumoured iPhone 5s are already available online. There is a gap in their schedule to launch a fully integrated Apple Television in Spring 2013 which could drive their push firmly into the living room.

Google continue to experience growth in their Android operating system as more handsets take on the Google software. The Nexus 10 tablet from Google has also been highly successful and dubbed by many as the closest iPad killer we have seen to date.

I expect their focus will be on Google+ as they work it into the entire Google ecosystem. With 500 million members it is still a long way from challenging Facebook dominance but it will increasingly impact Google’s search algorithms which are still the most important traffic source for most businesses on this planet. Their growth of the ‘Knowledge Graph’ will be critical to the future search results you see.

The importance of Google+ is too big to cover in one paragraph, but I would be recommending to businesses that they start exploring Google+ today.

Unlike Microsoft, Apple and Google, Facebook doesn’t have an official mobile handset strategy. Their Cha Cha branded phone was an interesting experiment but poorly executed. Facebook have been working hard to better monetize their mobile audience which is why you may have seen an increase in the number of ads recently. Over time they will get smarter with this as they work to learn more about the mobile consumer. There is talk of a full Facebook search engine coming next year which would be a very interesting proposition.

And finally, remember Yahoo!! ? (sorry their exclamations, not mine.) After year’s of declining relevance, we could well see a resurgence in this company through 2013. Earlier this year, they appointed Marissa Meyer to run the company. Meyer had a strong reputation for launching key products at Google including mobile and local. Her focus at Yahoo is around mobile and will be pushing initiatives to support that. A recent sale of their stake in Chinese site Alibaba gives them around $2bn to play with. What happens next could surprise us all.

One thing is for sure, 2013 is going to be a great year. The competition from the major players can only be positive for consumers and business.

: : Jamie Riddell is a director of Suffolk-based website and mobile app developer V4 Technical.

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