Saturday, 20 April 2013

10 cool things you can do with Google's Android

1. Wake up to news, updates and information... without even touching the device
One of the biggest appeals of Android is the use of off-screen hand gestures. Simply move your hand across the screen to perform tasks and dismiss notifications. Of course, the voice control is also incredibly useful and Senti Wayk helps put both of those to great use.
It acts as an alarm clock and lets you activate the snoose mode by either saying the word "snoose" or just waving your hand across the screen. Its biggest advantage is delivering reports as soon as you wake up, reading out weather reports, meetings and appointments you have planned and even news items from your RSS feeds.
If one ever needed a wireless personal assistant, this is it.

2. Automate everything at will
Another highly under-utilised feature of Android is the ability to automate and execute tasks when certain conditions are met.
Suppose you want your smartphone to text someone as soon as you reach a new area, or even play songs as soon as you plug in your headphones. How about cutting off Wi-Fi and 3G usage when data usage gets to a certain limit or when your battery runs out?
Android features a lot of these tasking abilities but the Tasker app perhaps exceeds them all. The sheer amount of customisation makes it so that you can do anything and everything automatically. And like a lot of useful functions with Android, it's free.

3. Control your PC using your smartphone
Most people who use a smartphone do so to access their mail and other documents. However, wouldn't it be great if you could access your computer itself?
Apps like Virtual Network Computing do this, allowing you to remotely connect to your system and view your entire desktop on your smartphone display. You can perform functions such as converting files, mailing and much more.
Another interesting app is VLC Direct Pro Free which stream media to your smartphone. You can use this to watch media from your PC on your smartphone. Imagine travelling to work and being able to watch a movie sitting on your PC via remote streaming.

4. Add contacts to your home screen
Some functions of Android are incredibly complex and powerful. This one is incredibly simple but under-stated in its importance. If you press and hold on an empty space on your Android smartphone's home screen, you'll get a pop-up menu.
From there, select "Shortcuts" and then "Contact".
From there, you scroll through your contacts and decide whom to add. For Jelly Bean, you need to press the Menu button, select Widgets (located in the top right corner) and then slide over one page to select Contact.
From there, you can choose the contact you wish to add a shortcut for.

5. Taking measurements using your smartphone
Suppose you don't have any measuring tape on you. Using Smart Measure Pro, you can convert your camera's lens into a highly accurate measuring device. It features a long range of measurements and conversions so you can properly discern things.
It may seem a bit confusing at first, since you need to aim at the ground rather than the object in question to measure. For example, when measuring the distance from someone, you need to take a picture of his or her feet. But it supports a range of features such as Portrait Mode, measuring width and area, and much more.

6. Gesture mode for visually impaired users
External apps are fun and all for utilising wave gestures. However, what if you're visually impaired and need to use the entire smartphone?
This is where Google's new Gesture Mode comes into play.
Available with Jelly Bean, Gesture Mode uses voice output, gestures and even inputs via Braille to help properly guide users through the interface. There is even output available via USB and Bluetooth devices.

7. The knowledge graph
Google pushed this new update through for PC-based search. Now, it's available on Android as well. When conducting searches on specific topics, such as people, places, books, movies and more, Google will look for data relevant to the search.
For example, Google a popular movie and you'll find information to the right of the screen which showcases a short summary, cast of characters -- along with the actors' real names -- and other movies people search for in the process.
It's great for finding something similar to your interests.

8. Access notifications and apps without unlocking your phone
Suppose you're in a hurry and don't want to needlessly unlock your phone.
From the lock screen itself you can slide from the top of the screen to the bottom. This will open the notifications tab and show you any new messages or updates you may have. If you press on a specific item, it will open that app right away. You can also customise your lock screen for numerous shortcuts to different apps.

9. Taking screenshots with the device
A long awaited feature for Jelly Bean has been the ability to take screenshots of whatever is happening on the home screen.
The shortcut for doing so is to hold the power button and volume down key. This will take a screenshot of whatever your home screen currently has displayed. You can then edit, crop and even share the photo among friends.

10. A softer night browsing experience
For those who use their smartphones in the dark, with no external background light, viewing text on screen can be a harsh experience for the eyes.
Google has introduced the means to invert colours on the browser for easier reading. Go to Settings and then Accessibility. Scroll down from there to find "Inverted Rendering". This transforms the browser to showcase white text on a black background.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Work from Home: Ways to Ensure its Effectiveness

Marissa Mayer found herself at the center of a controversy when she issued a mandate that all Yahoo employees must work in one of the company's offices. Many people saw this as an indictment against the telework movement, which has become a mainstream option in recent years thanks to the explosive growth of mobile and cloud technologies that allows many professionals to work anyplace they have Internet access. As Yahoo played damage control about the decision, describing the decision as necessary for Yahoo's situation and not a value statement about remote workers, a picture began to emerge of wide scale corporate dysfunction.

As it turned out, Mayer made the decision because many Yahoo employees that were allowed to work from home simply weren't working -- and they weren't bothering to hide it. Mayer discovered the breadth of the situation by looking at VPN logs and discovering that remote workers weren't even connecting to Yahoo's corporate network. While the rest of world debated Mayer's decision, a number of Yahoo employees publicly praised the decision because they knew their colleagues were shirking their duties.

Mayer's decision may not have been a statement about the value or challenges of managing a remote workforce, but it definitely shows what can go wrong with a telework program and the drastic actions that it can take correct the situation. That brings up a big question for managers (and employees): What steps can you take to prevent your team, department, or company from developing a Yahoo-like dysfunction while embracing the flexibility and other advantages telework offers?

First and foremost -- telework isn't right for everyone. Understand that not everyone is well suited to working remotely and that some jobs don't lend themselves to a remote worker model. Depending on your business or department, the corporate culture, or even the type of work that you do may not be ideal for teleworking. An honest assessment of your organization's mission, the various teams and departments, individual employees and job roles is the first step in planning a successful telework experience. While management can do a good job in these assessments, employees themselves can offer invaluable insights in assessing themselves and their duties and should be part of the process.

Deny telework requests for business reasons only. If you need to deny telework (initially or after having previously approved it), you should be able articulate the business reasons for that decision. Personal preferences should not be a reason to deny telework options for individuals or teams.

Have clear goals. There are plenty of documented advantages to telework -- increased productivity, employee satisfaction, less downtime because of commuting, potentially easier access to clients or services, a lower carbon footprint, cost savings on office space, and a better overall attitude because people aren't fighting through traffic to get to the office. However, you should have a defined sense of what you want to a telework program to accomplish or how it will benefit your company. That knowledge helps you tailor the program to your needs, and to develop criteria and metrics for determining if the program is successful or how it may need to be tweaked.

Start with a pilot program. Shifting to a telework model is a major undertaking. As with many workplace and technology changes, you should test the waters before planning for a company-wide or departmental initiative. The pilot will let you test whether or not your presumed needs and support systems -- such as hardware, remote access technologies, and employee training -- are in fact effective enough.

Develop consistent policies for working remotely. These policies should include input from HR, legal, and even employee unions or bargaining units, all of which are major stakeholders shaping how and when employees work outside of the office. Be sure that the policies spell out employee and manager responsibilities, general expectations, and cost-sharing options that you may employ to compensate employees for establishing and managing a home office (wired or mobile Internet access, hardware, security and anti-malware software, mobile devices and service, or even space rental outside the home). Any employee requesting to work remotely should fully understand and agree to the terms and to any disciplinary actions if they fail to meet those requirements.

Provide training. Education and training is a big factor in successful telework programs. That education can be technical (how to use various devices and secure remote access technologies), it can focus on collaboration models for distributed workforces, it can cover workspace safety issues like ergonomic models to reduce repetitive stress injury, and it can tackle HR issues like feedback and conflict resolution. Any question that a manager or employee might have about the program or its policies should be communicated before the program ramps up.

Include in-office staff in policies and training. Setting guidelines about how in-office staff should interact with remote team members can help ensure smooth interactions and help resolve any ruffled feathers that in-office workers may feel about not being able to work remotely. Make sure division of labor is equitable regardless of who's in the office and who's working remotely to ensure a sense of fairness on both parties.

Create a criteria list of what remote employees need.  This could mean smartphones, personally owned computers, specific apps, VPN functionality, Internet access, a dedicated landline or VOIP line for phone and/or fax, and even hours that a remote worker is expected to be working or available. Then make sure that workers have these things already, or that the company can provide them.

Encourage employees working from home to set work/life boundaries. Establishing a real home office (ideally with a door that can be closed for quiet and so work is out of sight at the end of the day) is one of the most important boundaries to set. Also ensure workers understand that while telework does add flexibility and time with family, it shouldn't be a wholesale replacement for child care or elder care.

Redesign performance review processes. A big challenge in remote work programs is the lack of the day-to-day interaction and feedback that's common in an office. Even measuring engagement on a daily basis can be difficult. Often organizations need to create a new range of performance metrics to assess remote employees and may even need to create a different schedule for performance reviews to ensure issues don't fall through the cracks.

Face time is critical. It's important to keep human contact with remote workers. While planning a team meeting in which everyone attends physically may not be feasible, you should make efforts to get team members together when possible, be that at conferences, team or company retreats, or by invitation to social events. Even if those opportunities are infrequent, they help cement relationships and team dynamics in much the same way that seeing longtime friends and family members helps to strengthen bonds that are maintained mostly by email or Facebook.

Actively checking in is mandatory. Even if you can only check in by phone or video chat, ensuring that you do so on a regular basis is extremely important to keep team members motivated and feeling like they're part of a team. Many experts suggest checking in with each remote team member at least once a week. You can even promote deeper engagement by using social tools across a team, which can be something as simple as a web forum or wiki, mainstream media tools -- a Twitter list, Facebook group, Google+ circle -- or a full featured enterprise social platform.

Encourage long distance employees to make use of flexible offices or coworking spaces. Working solely from home can be isolating in a personal as well as a professional sense. Using flexible rented office space or coworking spaces can combat that isolation, offer a professional setting for meeting clients, and even expand networking opportunities. Likewise, you should try to keep some space in the office for remote employees to use on occasion -- after all telework isn't an all or nothing proposition.

Consider hiring or assigning a telework coordinator. Telework programs represent a unique mix of stakeholders -- IT, HR, corporate policy makers, finance, building or facilities management, managers, and the remote workers themselves. Assigning someone who can be an intermediary for all those stakeholders as well as a go-to person for resolving problems can keep a telework program running smoothly.

Provide forums for managers of teleworkers. Often times problems and opportunities associated with a remote workforce will impact multiple teams. Providing managers a forum -- be it an actual web forum, an email list, social platform, or regular meetings -- to discuss challenges and ideas and to learn from another can help avoid problems and capitalize on opportunities.

Review effectiveness of the telework program and related policies on a regular basis. A telework initiative is far from static. Changes in staff, corporate culture or policy, and technology will impact that the program in large and small ways. Reviewing its effectiveness, limitations, costs, and opportunities at least once a year can ensure ongoing success.

Address problems as soon as they're identified. It's virtually impossible for any business initiative to function without glitches or problems and a telework program is no exception. While all these tips can help you avoid problems, some issues may be unavoidable or beyond the scope of anything you could anticipate. Dealing with trouble immediately is always better than procrastinating and letting things fester, but it can be absolutely essential with a remote workforce. Being outside of the office and often working by themselves, remote workers don't see evidence of a problem being discussed or addressed in the way that employees in an office do. Not hearing the scuttlebutt or being able to vent frustrations with coworkers means that small issues can seem bigger than they are, and major issues can be easily overlooked -- both of which are recipes for disaster.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Microsoft vs Google

Microsoft is skewering Google again with scathing ads that say as much about the dramatic shift in the technology industry's competitive landscape as they do about the animosity between the two rivals.
The missive being launched the third phase in a 5-month-old marketing campaign that Microsoft derisively calls " Scroogled." The ads, which have appeared online, on television and in print, depict Google as a duplicitous company more interested in increasing profits and power than protecting people's privacy and providing unbiased search results. 
This time, Microsoft is vilifying Google for sharing some of the personal information that it gathers about people who buy applications designed to run on smartphones and tablet computers powered by Google's Android software. Earlier ads have skewered Google's long-running practice of electronically scanning the contents of people's Gmail accounts to help sell ads and attacked a recently introduced policy that requires retailers to pay to appear in the shopping section of Google's dominant search engine. 
"We think we have a better alternative that doesn't do these kinds of nefarious things," said Greg Sullivan, Microsoft's senior manager for Windows Phone, the business taking aim at Google's distribution of personal information about buyers of Android apps. 
Microsoft's advertising barbs could potentially backfire. Even as they help draw attention to Google practices that may prod some consumers to try different services, they also serve as a reminder of Microsoft's mostly futile - and costly - attempts to trump its rival with more compelling technology. 
"It's always the underdog that does negative advertising like this, and there is no doubt that Microsoft is now the underdog," said Jonathan Weber, who has been following Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign at search consulting firm unaMetrics. 
On the flip side, Google has evolved from an endearing Internet startup to an imposing giant running Web and mobile services that vacuum intimate details about people's lives. Despite repeated management assurances about respecting personal privacy, Google has experienced several lapses that have resulted in regulatory fines, settlements and scorn around the world. 
Microsoft's latest ads revolve around concerns already raised by privacy watchdogs. Critics argue that Google hasn't adequately disclosed that customers' names, email addresses and neighborhood locations are routinely sent to the makers of apps sold in Google's online Play store. 
At least one group, Consumer Watchdog, has complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Google's apps practices represent an "egregious privacy violation.'' Citing agency policy, FTC spokesman Jay Mayfield declined to comment on whether the complaint has triggered a formal investigation. 
Google says it shares a limited amount of personal information about customers to ensure they get better service and faster responses if any problems arise. The company says the practice is allowed under its terms of service - a document that most people rarely read in its entirety. 
Microsoft says it doesn't pass along personal details about customers buying apps for devices running its Windows Phone software. But there aren't as many Windows Phone users or apps for that system as there are for Android. 
The notion of Microsoft being well behind Google once seemed inconceivable. 
A decade ago, Microsoft was the world's most powerful technology company, with its Windows operating system and Office productivity software pervasive on personal computers. Microsoft's dominance had grown so extensive that U.S. and European antitrust regulators spent years trying to rein in the Redmond, Washington, software company. 
Although Google was growing rapidly at the time, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other skeptics dismissed the company as a "one-trick pony" that hadn't proven adept at doing anything besides searching the Web and selling ads next to the results. 
Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, has since morphed into a multi-faceted juggernaut relentlessly trying to muscle into new markets. The company now runs the world's most watched online video service in YouTube, the largest email service in Gmail and the most widely used operating system for mobile devices in Android. All of those services provide more opportunities to show the ads that generate the bulk of Google's revenue. Google is now the company facing the scrutiny of regulators - and Microsoft has been active in making those complaints. 
"Google is certainly the biggest challenge that Microsoft has ever had to deal with," said Michael Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and author of several books about Microsoft. 
Microsoft has tried to thwart Google by investing heavily in online services, to little avail. Since Google went public in August 2004, Microsoft's online division has accumulated more than $17.5 billion in operating losses. The losses include an accounting charge of more than $6 billion for Microsoft's acquisition of aQuantive, an online advertising service that didn't pan out. 
Google, meanwhile, has been steadily increasing profits and share of the internet search market. Google processes about two out of every three search requests in the US and handles an even larger percentage of queries in many parts of Europe. 
Although Microsoft has remained profitable companywide, the Windows franchise that provides its financial backbone has been weakening as a growing preference for smartphones and tablet computers undercuts sales of desktop and laptop computers. Besides doing damage with Android, Google is also trying to dent Microsoft by selling a less expensive, Internet-based alternative to Microsoft's Office suite. Google also is pushing a laptop operating system built on its popular Chrome Web browser in an attempt to divert even more sales away from Windows machines. 
Microsoft has countered with a dramatic overhaul of the Windows operating system, one designed to bring tablet features such as touch screens to desktops and laptops. But Windows 8 has gotten off to a tepid start since its October release. 
The changing fortunes of Microsoft and Google have been reflected in the stock market's appraisal of the two companies. 
Google's market value has soared from nearly $25 billion at the time of its initial public offering to $255 billion. Microsoft's market value has fallen by about 20 percent during the same period, declining from nearly $300 billion at the time of Google's IPO to $239 billion today. Apple, a rival of both Google and Microsoft, is the only technology company worth more than Google, with a market value hovering around $400 billion. 
Microsoft developed its anti-Google ad campaigns shortly after hiring former political operative Mark Penn in August as a corporate strategist who reports directly to Ballmer. Penn is best known as a former pollster for President Bill Clinton and a campaign strategist for Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful bid for president in 2008. Penn left his job as CEO of public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to help Microsoft generate more usage of its Bing search engine and other online services. 
Microsoft isn't saying how much it is spending on these ad campaigns beyond saying the amount will run in the "multimillions" of dollars. 
Although there isn't any evidence that the ads have hurt Google yet, Sullivan said Microsoft is pleased with the response. The company says about 117,000 people have signed Microsoft's online petition protesting Gmail's ad-driving scanning of content. That's a sliver of the more than 425 million Gmail accounts worldwide. Microsoft says about 4 million people have visited, the website that serves as the hub of the company's anti-Google screed. 
Although the attack ads are something new for Microsoft, denigrating the competition isn't. Most notably, Microsoft tried to undermine Web browser pioneer Netscape Communications beginning in the mid-1990s. Most of that sniping remained behind the scenes until a US Department of Justice investigation into Microsoft's business practices exposed the cut-throat tactics deployed to overcome Netscape's early lead in the Web browser market. 
Given that history, Microsoft's marketing assault on Google isn't that surprising, said Cusumano, who has been following the company for 20 years. 

"Nothing is below Microsoft," Cusumano said. "They have been playing dirty for a long time. In this instance, they probably sincerely believe this can give them a little marketing edge and help them capitalize on the growing discomfort with the size and influence of Google."

Monday, 8 April 2013

Microsoft, Google, and Apple: Which one faces doom in 2017?

Last week Gartner released yet another report predicting what the market for computing devices will look like in 2017.

And tech pundits have run with it, churning out one sensational headline after another: Microsoft will be obsolete, its influence is fading fast, it is sliding into irrelevance. And my favorite, “Gartner May Be Too Scared To Say It, But the PC Is Dead.” One could write a pretty good parody of the Monty Python “dead parrot” sketch just using the headlines.

There are two problems with what happened last week.
First, it’s Gartner, which has a track record of being spectacularly wrong with its predictions. Like the time in 2006 (and no, that is not a typo) when Gartner asserted that Apple’s only path to success was to quit the hardware business completely and license the Mac to Dell. Or the rolling forecasts in 2009 that started with Gartner projecting the “sharpest unit decline in history” and ended up with a report of “the strongest growth rate [in PC shipments] in seven years.”
Now, in fairness to the analysts who wrote this report, I think they have identified some likely trends. Sadly, those genuine insights are getting lost because they’re surrounded by tables full of numbers that are so specific as to be ludicrous.
But even if you take their numbers at face value, you need to actually understand them. With a few exceptions, most of the quick-and-dirty rewrites of Gartner’s press release got the story exactly wrong.
And that’s the second problem. All those reports focused on one shiny thing and ignored everything else in the report. Here, I’ve used my virtual yellow magic marker so you can see Gartner’s data as superficially as all those bloggers did:
Right. The market for conventional desktop and notebook PCs is declining, because people increasingly value mobility in the devices they use to perform basic computing tasks. So, Gartner predicts a 20 percent decline in demand for big, desk-bound PCs and conventional notebooks, most of which are heavy devices that remain on a desktop full time.
But what’s that line right below the highlighted one? What’s an Ultramobile?
The good folks at Gartner helpfully defined the term for CNET last summer:
Gartner describes the combination of ultrabooks and the MacBook Air as "ultramobile notebooks." Typically, ultramobile laptops are under 3.5 pounds and less than 0.8-inches thick.
In other words, these are lightweight PCs, typically with keyboards and trackpads, powered by the same operating systems used on those heavier desktop and conventional notebook models. Microsoft’s two-pound Surface Pro is a perfect example of this type of lightweight PC/tablet. So are hybrid Windows 8 devices like HP’s Envy X2, Samsung’s 500T and 700T, and even Dell’s 3.3-pound convertible XPS 12. Ultrabooks and MacBook Airs, which are the equivalent of PCs and MacBook Pros in every dimension except weight and thickness, are counted in that line too. In other words, some PCs are getting considerably lighter, but they’re still PCs.
So let’s redo Gartner’s numbers, this time combining the PC and Ultramobile lines.
Wow, that’s a completely different story. Large, heavy, general-purpose PCs are becoming less popular, but demand for lightweight devices that can still function as general-purpose PCs is soaring. If you do the math, you’ll see that the increase is projected to be about 881 percent from 2012 to 2017. That phenomenal growth rate in the Ultramobile category means that overall, the number of shipments of devices running desktop operating systems (like Windows and OS X and even Chrome OS) will probably increase by 5 percent between 2012 and 2017.
At an average of about 340 million devices per year, that means roughly 1.7 billion new PCs (including 250 million or so in the Ultramobile category) will reach the market between 2013 and 2017, also known as the Windows 8 era. Not exactly a dead category.
If you trust the numbers, that is, which is a pretty big if.
(A side note from that CNET story: Last July Gartner said it expected about 10.7 million ultramobile units to ship in 2012. Gartner’s final tally for the year was 9.8 million, more than 8 percent lower than its projection just six months earlier. Likewise, last July they projected that the number of ultramobiles shipped in 2013 would be “about 17 million.” Nine months later, they’ve revised that projection upwards to 23.6 million, a change of about 39 percent in just nine months. Think about that before you get too transfixed by the detailed projections for 2014 and 2017.)
And what about that "obsolete,” “irrelevant,” “fading fast” Microsoft?
Well, again, if you trust in Gartner’s numbers enough to write a “Microsoft is doomed” blog post, you really need to look at all the numbers. Here, let me help.
[Data from Table 2 in this report, with RIM's tiny numbers added to the much larger "Other" category. I added percentages and trendlines.]
Wait, what? That same Gartner report says that Microsoft will struggle in 2013 and 2014 but then will dramatically increase its share of the overall market by 2017?
Exactly. Here’s what Gartner said in their summary press release:
In the shares of operating systems (OSs) in device sales, the shift to mobile and the fight for the third ecosystem becomes more evident. Android continues to be the dominant OS in the device market, buoyed by strong growth in the smartphone market (see Table 2). Competition for the second spot will be between Apple's iOS/Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
I think that sounds about right.
Apple isn’t interested in winning market share at any costs. They want the high-margin customers. Microsoft is doing its best to build new-format devices that can work well in corporate environments where management is important. Android and Windows are both fighting aggressively to win share in emerging markets. The real loser is “Other.”
And before you start high-fiving Google over their complete dominance, it’s worth noting that Google’s direct share of the Android ecosystem might be a lot smaller than either of its two rivals. As my colleague Jason Perlow pointed out last week, the open nature of Android is a great blessing and an even greater curse for Google. Samsung, the largest maker of Android devices in the world, “will diverge from Google's OS and become a legitimate fork.” So will Amazon.
ZTE, Lenovo, and Huawei service primarily a domentic market in China, and will run their own weird domestic builds of Android with state-approved social networking software to keep the Chinese government happy...
This leaves us with no less than four, five, or six distinct forks of Android. Google as represented on Nexuses or Google Experience devices; Amazon; Samsung; HTC/Facebook; and whatever weird beast ends up running for domestic Chinese use. And BlackBerry 10's Dalvik implementation.
If you strip away the sensational headlines, the real story is pretty prosaic. The worldwide market for computing devices is changing rapidly, and three ecosystems (one of which is highly fragmented) have excellent prospects of becoming large enough to be taken seriously over the next five years.
Unless things change, which they always do.
Now go ahead and spin a clickbait headline out of that story. I dare you.

Check detail:

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Mobile Industry In 2013

As we enter 2013 it’s only fitting to present a few predictions for the sector that’s become as important to established tech as technology itself to the makers of cars, consumer goods and services. With a little help from analysts, entrepreneurs and researchers, here are 10 forecasts on the big changes we’ll see for telecommunications and mobile technology in 2013:

1. HTML5 will make a comeback, helping to make smartphones cheaper.
HTML5 is a new web standard letting apps run on any mobile operating system (iOS, Android, etc.) through a web browser. Though it kicked off a while ago, the infrastructure wasn’t ready, says Tomer Kagan, chief executive officer of Quixey, a search engine for mobile apps. “But HTML5 will make a comeback because of the release of Firefox and Tizen.” These are open-sourced, mobile operating systems that Mozilla and Samsung, respectively, are expected to launch in 2013. That could lead to cheaper smartphones, since HTML5 apps can run on these systems with no need for a browser, and they are cheaper for developers to build. “The costs of running a developer community and app store also go away,” says Kagan. On top of that, “more users internationally will have access to a greater web than ever before.” Essentially, as other mobile operating systems compete against the 90%-marketshare of Android-and-iOS, more developers will push to make apps work across different platforms, using HTML5. One caveat: apps created natively for Android or iOS still tend to perform faster than those on HTML5, meaning the walled gardens or “ecosystems” of mobile-operating systems and native apps may continue for at least a couple more years.

2. Companies will continue to launch dark, rectangular slabs of plastic.
Surprise! Device makers will keep bringing out the same, tried and tested form factor for smartphones: dark, plastic slabs in roughly three sizes of phone, “phablet” and tablet. “There will be new launches of the same, boring form factor,” says Jefferson Wang, a mobile consultant with IBB Consulting. Manufacturers will still make incremental innovations. “The finish doesn’t have to be matt plastic,” says Wang. “It could have a texture or a gloss or different finishes.” That said, Samsung has long been rumored to be working on foldable AMOLED screens that wrap around the borders of a smartphone, so it could also release something along those lines in 2013.

3. A few firms that were late to the mobile game will launch their own phones.
One of the big criticisms made towards Facebook has been its slow move into mobile, but multiple reports suggest the company is working on launching its own Facebook-branded phone in collaboration with HTC, and it’s likely under pressure to finally put something out in 2013. Microsoft and Amazon have reportedly contracted Foxconn, the sprawling Taiwanese manufacturer of iPhones and other handsets, to manufacture their own smartphones for a launch in 2013. Meanwhile a large Internet company with mobile ambitions could buy a struggling device maker, a la Google‘s purchase of Motorola Mobility in 2011. Among the possible targets: HTC, LG, Sony Mobile, Research in Motion and Nokia, who would most likely be bought out by its partner, Microsoft.

4. Wireless technology will give new life to products that were almost killed by smartphones.
Remember watches? Point-and-shoot digital cameras? Day planners? We don’t see very much of these products anymore because they’ve been replaced by smartphones, with their confluence of multiple services into one piece of plastic. But some of these old industries are coming back from the brink by incorporating the same wireless technology we find in smartphones, says IBB’s Wang. Expect to see more wireless-enabled wearable devices in 2013, including watches that track your fitness levels, (like the bluetooth-enabled smart watch that Apple and Intel are reportedly working on) or digital cameras that can connect to to the web and take a better photo than your smartphone can. In 2012 Samsung launched its 16-megapixel, Galaxy digital camera that runs on Android and edits photos, then uploads them directly to Facebook. Devices mainly need to support a mobile operating system like Android, thus allowing them to connect to web protocols. “Even fabric can have wireless capabilities that change based on your emotion and physical state,” says Wang.

5. Samsung will continue to dominate.
The world of mobile devices has had its kings in global sales, innovation and the high-quality products, with Motorola, Nokia, RIM and most recently Apple each having their few-years reign. But Samsung rose through the ranks in 2012, dethroning Nokia as the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, and it will continue to dominate the world of consumer mobile products in 2013. It is reaping the benefits of Android’s growth in most major markets outside of the U.S., and its strong distribution channels, good relationships with carriers and varied price range will help keep the company on top.

6. So will Foxconn. 
It’s well known that sales of tablets are on track to overtake those of desktop PCs and even laptops. So who’s benefiting? Taiwan-based Foxconn is one of the world’s biggest mobile handset manufacturers, producing devices for Apple, Dell, Nokia and Sony, with recent reports suggesting it is now prepping phones for Microsoft and Amazon. The company will also continue to benefit significantly from orders from Apple, whose supply chain partners are reportedly working through the traditional Chinese New Year holiday to keep up with demand for the iPad Mini and iPhone 5.

7. Microsoft and (especially) Research in Motion will struggle to sell phones.
Smartphone sales continue to be a two-horse race between Android and Apple’s iOS, with Microsoft’s Windows Phone and RIM’s BlackBerry fighting for third place in mobile “ecosystems.” RIM’s future will rest largely on the fate of it’s forthcoming BlackBerry 10 phone, launching in January 2013 and offering a new “peek-and-go” method of interacting with a device. But Microsoft stands a better chance of staying firmly in the No. 3 spot, thanks to the support of several large device manufacturers like Nokia, Samsung and HTC. These firms are keen to see Windows Phone push back against Google’s dominance with Android, something Nokia CEO Stephen Elop alluded to when he first partnered Nokia with Windows Phone. Windows Phone’s colorful tiles are are also being marketed everywhere, from music videos, to “Gossip Girl,” to billboards. But pressure is also coming from smaller challengers:

8. Dark horses will challenge the third ecosystem.
Smartphones are becoming as much about software as they are about incremental changes to the shape of their rectangular shape. That leaves room for upstart companies to develop new operating systems and launch phones, challenging Microsoft and RIM by taking fourth place in the mobile OS rankings. One dark horse is Tizen, the forthcoming open-source mobile operating system that the Linux Foundation is developing with Samsung and Intel. The other is Mozilla’s Firefox OS, an open-sourced mobile operating system. Research firm Strategy Analytics expects Firefox OS to capture 1% of global smartphone shipments in 2013, by targeting entry-level smartphone users, but it could end up taking more. The Finnish mobile company Jolla is also preparing to launch its open-sourced mobile OS Sailfish in 2013, a descendant of the Meego OS that Nokia abandoned in favor of Windows Phone, and will start by launching a phone in China.

9. Carriers will lose more control to software providers.
 Network providers like AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone were once the kings of mobile telephony, each with their own, profitable empire, a one-stop-shop for subscribing to a mobile phone and  broadband. Now their power is being circumvented in all sorts of ways: new players like FreedomPop are providing cheaper WiFi access for the home, mobile messaging companies like WhatsApp and GroupMe are eating away at their SMS revenues. Meanwhile, Internet giants know far more about users than the providers like AT&T, who were once king of user information like billing and network habits. Now Facebook, Apple, Google and smaller app developers are collecting nuanced details like location data and address-book info, and across a wider breadth of people (more than a billion in the case of Facebook).
 In the coming years, carriers will maintain their crucial advantage of providing spectrum for calls and data connectivity through 3G and 4G. But even that may see some encroachment from the likes of Google. The company is already experimenting with its one-gigabit fiber network in Kansas City, offering lightening-fast broadband and TV services. Who knows if in 2013 Google doesn’t buy spectrum (it has reportedly been in talks with the Dish Network) and experiment on a small market like Kansas City. It might be hard to imagine Google becoming that big, but “there is a collision course between the Internet and the mobile space,” says IBB’s Wang. We’ll always need network carriers like AT&T, but signs point to them going the way of regulated utilities like your electric and water company, rather than service providers that know everything about you.

 10. Big demand for big data
 It’s a little cliche to include “big data” in a list of 2013 predictions, but a few companies will successfully take advantage of the need to contextualize the glut of data and web-enabled apps that run on mobile devices according to Juniper Research. In so doing, they’ll be able to make valuable predictions of consumer behavior — notwithstanding a host of privacy concerns.

 11. Bonus prediction: The definition of “mobile” will broaden. 
 Today the smartest machine in many homes, besides a desktop computer or laptop, is a smartphone. Everything else from the TV to the toaster, are dumb by comparison. But that’s changing, as more devices are enabled with wireless connectivity as per prediction No. 4. The smartphone is also becoming the hub for them all — used to turn off the lights or control the temperature of a house. More devices will go mobile, augmenting the very definition of the term, and the smartphone will become increasingly important as the “mothership” that controls them all.