Add a few more capabilities to context-aware apps, such as predictive modeling, the wisdom of crowds and facial recognition, and your phone could be transformed from smart to downright psychic.
From Siri to Swype, predictive technologies already make interacting with mobile devices faster and more intuitive. Nuance Communications (Dragon Go! and Flex T9) is slated to showcase next- gen voice and predictive technologies in early January at CES 2012, and as these technologies improve, so do the predictive models that they feed.
Imagine being able to snap a photo of a friend on your phone and automatically “friend” them on Facebook based on that photo. Or your UI could shift from work-mode to social-mode as soon as the GPS realizes you’ve left the office.
Whenever I mention that Windows Phone could eventually challenge iPhone and Android, people say I’m crazy.
When I wrote about this for a different publication back in August, the comment section lit up with vitriol and ad hominem attacks.
Granted this is a bit of a long shot, but I expect to start being vindicated in 2012. Yes, Microsoft has made a million and one mistakes on its road to having a true mobile presence (here’s the latest shakeup), but Windows Phone 7.5 will eventually get the company over the hump.
“Microsoft used the year  to polish its OS and now WP7 is a mature operating system standing on par with Android and iOS. The early sign of changes to come is that leading players (HTC and Samsung) not only developed decent hardware for WP7 (Samsung Galaxy W, HTC Titan), but have also started to advertise it extensively,” Denis Margolin, VP of Mobile Solutions for DataArt, a software development firm, wrote to me in a recent email.
The Nokia partnership could also start bearing fruit. “The Lumia 710 is an example of a cheap, yet high-quality and capable smartphone that will do very well in the European market. It's much more responsive and better built then Android handsets with comparable price points,” Margolin argues.
Windows Phone 7.5 also offers a true alternative to the other smartphone platforms. Apple’s smartphone worldview is based on principles of elegant design and ease of use. Google placed its bet on openness and integration with search and key Google apps, such as Gmail and Google Maps. RIM’s bread and butters was secure email and messaging.
Microsoft’s approach builds on its strength: productivity. Eventually, with tighter integration to Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, SharePoint and all of the other productivity apps that power business, and with all of those tightly integrated to social networks, Windows Phone 7.5 will differentiate itself from other handsets.
Do I expect it to displace iPhone or Android anytime soon? No.
However, as BlackBerry continues to bumble its way towards irrelevancy, Windows Phone 7.5 will emerge as a solid smartphone alternative. Every market needs a viable number three, and in the smartphone market, that position is definitely up for grabs in 2012.
According to Al Subbloie, CEO of Tangoe, a provider of telecom expense management software, in 2012 enterprises will identify their biggest security risk. No, not mobile malware or un-curated marketplaces, but employees.
“The consumerization of IT has already dramatically changed the enterprise mobility landscape in terms of device count and diversity. What further complicates the scenario is that most of the devices will be individually liable,” Subbloie said.
“According to IDC, by 2014, individual-liable devices will outnumber corporate-liable devices 99 million to 62 million units, yet will still contain sensitive corporate data. Businesses will need to strategize how they can manage devices across the spectrum to prevent harmful security risks – which begins with the employee.”
Let’s not forget that limiting access to sensitive apps only does so much. A disgruntled employee with a smartphone that can record audio, snap high-resolution photographs and record video can steal a lot of sensitive intellectual property without ever connecting the device to a corporate network.
How we think about insider risks will need to fundamentally change in 2012. But will it? I’m not terribly optimistic.