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Funambol Looks Skyward To The Mobile Cloud

Mobile cloud data synchronization provider Funambol has drawn on its dual-licensing commercial and open source business models to make some forward looking predictions for the mobile cloud market in the year ahead.

Writing in an internal piece shared with Dr, Dobbs this week, Funambol's VP of worldwide marketing Hal Steger outlines his top predictions for 2011 looking beyond mobile devices to a "smarter" cloud future.

With global wireless subscriptions reaching 5 billion in September this year, Steger says that it is not surprising that cloud services are now aligning to address the mobile environment. Initially more closely associated with desktops and servers, cloud services now enable wireless devices such as mobile handsets to access, share, and synchronize data and rich media with one another, but what could be next for this maturing sector?

The new open "smart" cloud

According to Steger, "To date, the mobile cloud has primarily addressed the handset market, allowing devices to communicate with similar devices. However wireless devices include many non-phones such as tablets, consumer electronics and in-car information/infotainment systems etc. — so with handset penetration at near saturation levels in mature markets, the real growth is in these non-phone units."

"But for the mobile cloud to evolve and be able to sync all these disparate platforms together, service providers will need to: improve performance by extending cloud services beyond phones to other connected devices; learn how to optimize the delivery of media to different devices over different networks, taking into account different network conditions (bandwidth, data traffic, frequency, 3G, LTE, etc); add device management to provide more security (i.e. if device is lost the data can be erased/disabled); and also monetize it — if providing cloud service then a service provider has built-in hooks to monetizing it," said Steger.

Straddling both the commercial and open licensing models as it does, Funambol's corporate stance specifies that we still need to unlock the potential of mobile open source — and that open source will be the key to unlocking mobile devices and services to create a connected environment where consumers can sync, access, and share content across a range of devices.

The popularity of the Android mobile operating system will continue to grow on the client side, says Steger. However, it faces stiff competition, with Meego, the young upstart, most likely to challenge Android’s title. The ability to provide open source cloud services on the server side will also become more important as handset manufacturers look to improve the functionality and power of their devices.

"Ultimately, we need to get to a point where app developers can finally make money. Interest in the sector will continue to rise and 'Freemium' models will become more popular, shaking up existing mobile advertising platforms, as developers view it as a viable business model. Cross-platform conversion will become widely adopted in the industry with app development becoming more 'open,' offering a wider user base and increased revenue opportunity," said Steger.

For 2011 and onward, Funambol and Steger point to the next 12-months being the year that mobile video needs to "come of age," but whether it can be made to work over cellular networks remains to be seen. Common perception is that streaming video and video conferencing is unreliable over mobile networks, but this may change with 4G around the corner.

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