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Where is mobile headed in the next five years?

The next couple of weeks are going to be incredibly busy in the mobile world. Nearly all the big players are set to announce new products, culminating in the launch of the iPhone 5. More than just providing cool tech though, these launches will influence what direction mobile heads in leading up to 2017.

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While we can’t be entirely certain what’s going to happen over the next five years, we can make some reasonable guesses says Leif-Olof Wallin, a research vice president at tech analysis company Gartner.

Smartphones will keep winning
While the global mobile market as a whole is shrinking, smartphone adoption will continue to explode. Sure, the growth isn’t as large, percentage-wise, as tablets but remember that tablets started from an almost zero base. They still have a long way to grow.

Interestingly, Gartner also sees people buying mobile PCs (laptops, ultrabooks and netbooks) in large numbers for the next few years.

All hail King Microsoft

When it comes to mobile operating systems, things haven’t been what you’d call stable over the last couple of years. HP gave up on Web OS, and Nokia killed Symbian and MeeGo to give just two examples of big players that are no longer really with us.

The next big victor from this disruption, says Gartner is Microsoft. It expects the Redmond-based giant hold more than 20% of the smartphone market place by 2016. “We weren’t smoking anything when we came up with that,” says Wallin.

According to Wallin, mobile operators are very excited by Microsoft and Nokia’s offering. Add in the fact that they’re starting to feel threatened by Google — because it knows more about their subscribers than they do themselves — and you can see why.

Microsoft and Nokia are also both ‘safe’ familiar options. “Make no mistake, Nokia is one of the leanest and meanest companies out there”, says Wallin. If that’s true, then Microsoft may really be getting its cool back.

That said, they’ll still have to convince consumers who some people think aren’t nearly as certain about Microsoft phones.

Gartner reckons that Apple will grow in emerging markets like South Africa and Brazil but it will stagnate in developed economies. “If you’re a premium product you’ll never get total domination,” says Wallin.

More of the same from tablets
The shape of the tablet market looks like it will stay pretty stable. Ten inch tablet will remain the dominant form factor. Seven inch tablets will get some traction, but not a lot. Apple and Android meanwhile will continue to be the dominant tablet platforms, making up over 80% of the market by 2015.

Tablet prices will fall through 2013 as volumes increase and companies look for ways to compete with Apple. That means that good spec tablets will come down to around US$300 next year.

More of everything

Our mobile devices will be crammed with more and more technology over the next few years. More touchscreens, more voice control, additional sensors, higher res screens, more new screen technologies, well you get the idea…

High hoopes for HTML 5.

Although HTML 5 will come to market piecemeal, says Gartner, its use will become increasingly ubiquitous. In fact it predicts that by 2015, half of the apps that would’ve been coded as native apps will be web apps.

It’s all about context

Within the next few years, “your phone will know if the person you’re hugging isn’t your spouse and it’ll know not to bother you,” says Wallin. We started to see this with some of the features on the Galaxy SIII and it’ll only become more common.

So where we once had to set the mode on our phones, in the next few years they’ll get better at adjusting themselves according to what mode we’re in.

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