Line-of-business apps will drive much of this activity. Smartphones and tablets redefined the way many professionals did their jobs in 2012. Sales, aviation and medicine were just a few of the industries that improved operations by untethering employees. An Intel study found that most IT staffers see BYOD more as a productivity booster than a cost saver, a conclusion that jives with the InformationWeek Reports survey mentioned above. As businesses find new ways to harness mobility in 2013, the demands for specialized apps and support will only increase.
Retail is another space likely to keep app developers busy. A study conducted by IDC and Appcelerator anticipates that 86% of consumers will access a store's website on a mobile device while inside that store's physical location, and that electronic wallets will become a bigger part of the shopping ritual. Major ripples could come from loyalty apps that utilize real-time, location-based data to deliver targeted advertising.
5. HTML5 Apps Will Become More Popular
The variety of mobile operating systems poses potential difficulty for developers. IDC and Appcelerator found that app builders are predictably enthusiastic about iOS and, to a slightly lesser extent, Android. Developers also showed strong interest in HTML5; it was the only platform besides iOS and Android that more than 60% of developers expressed intentions about.
HTML5 isn't perfect but it's accessible and boasts support from some of tech's biggest names. As cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) gain popularity, Gartner sees HTML5 apps supplanting native versions as the primary delivery method for mobile content. At least one of the programming language's appeals is obvious: Because apps are accessed through browsers, they don't have to be re-written for each OS. Third-party tools such as IBM's Worklight already serve this purpose, but HTML5 offers a simple, cost-free and familiar pathway. Vendors such as ionGrid have started marketing app deployment around the browser approach.
Native apps aren't going away. Gartner notes that they'll continue to offer a more sophisticated and satisfying experience, and anyone who's endured shoddy network coverage can appreciate that browser-based apps can impede productivity as much as accelerate it. Nevertheless, expect to see HTML5 among the most commonly requested developer skills in 2013.
6. No Major Disruptions To The Mobile OS Hierarchy
RIM and Microsoft hope to make inroads with BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8, respectively. Though neither platform can be completely dismissed, don't expect either to threaten Android or iOS.
Google's mobile OS led the field in 2012, and both IDC and Gartner expect more of the same for the next three years. IDC credits OEM support as part of Android's success, and the aforementioned IDC-Appcelerator survey found strong developer enthusiasm as well: More than three-quarters of those polled expressed interest in developing apps for Android phones and 64% in developing for Android tablets.
Though Gartner and IDC anticipate the OS will be a distant second to Android in terms of smartphone market share, iOS remains the top developer draw, with 89% of the IDC-Appcelerator respondents indicating iPhone interest. On the tablet scene, Apple will continue to be top dog. IDC expects the iPad family, which is likely to grow stronger thanks to the iPad Mini, to own around half the market through at least 2016.
Neither Windows Phone 8 nor Windows RT has made a huge splash so far, but analysts expect Microsoft's mobile offerings to settle into the third spot in their respective markets in 2013. IDC anticipates the platforms will represent a little over one-tenth of the field by 2016. Gartner foresees more interest from enterprises than consumers, and expects Windows 8 tablets and ultramobiles to account for around 40% of mobile devices bought by businesses three years from now. The performance of the Surface Pro, which runs Windows 8 Pro and is due in early 2013, should be one of this year's most closely watched Microsoft stories.
As for RIM, the one-time enterprise staple is losing customers left and right. It's also a weak draw among developers. Still, BlackBerry 10 has generated favorable buzz in some quarters, so there's still hope for RIM devotees. IDC expects fewer than 5% of smartphones to run a BlackBerry OS over the next three years.
7. Virtualization And The Cloud Will Become Bigger Deals
BYOD forces IT to manage corporate content on devices that aren't company owned, and doing so without infringing on user privacy can be a challenge. The ability to cleanly separate business data from personal data is thus one of mobility's holy grails, and many technologies are vying to lead the way. Confining data to app containers and encrypted wrappers is a popular approach that controls how data is used, but because this method usually stores data locally it's not as secure as most admins would like. We should see more companies experiment with alternate approaches, such as virtualization and cloud-based solutions, in 2013.
451 Research's Hazelton said, "2013 will bring a lot more integration between mobile apps and the cloud. Wherever possible, you won't have data that resides on the device." He remarked that the next 12 months could be "make or break" for virtualization technologies such as VMware's Project Horizon Suite. It and other virtualization products will have to answer some persistent doubts. Mobile hypervisors are notorious battery hogs, for example, and session persistence can be an issue. Nevertheless, virtualization's security appeal can't be ignored.
The broader cloud outlook, meanwhile, will heavily involve browser-based app deployments and SaaS. Expect to see more products that advertise secure browsers that allow broader IT control than the OS's standard version.
Cloud and virtualization are unlikely to take over completely because they cannot be accessed at will. An employee who wants to work on corporate data during a flight, for example, will have trouble linking to the cloud while doing so. As a result, most comprehensive offerings will continue to include options for locally storing files within an IT-controllable container.
Building A Mobile Business MindsetAmong 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.