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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cloud Services Enabling Mobile Applications

The iPhone, from Apple, increased the market awareness of value-added service (VAS) mobile applications. These applications and associated "app stores" are becoming the next mobile sector market development opportunity.

However, most new mobile applications require smartphone capabilities, limiting their potential market. Moreover, a new architecture that applies a cloud-based model could drastically change the way mobile applications are developed, acquired, and consumed.

According to the market study from ABI Research, mobile cloud-based services will be disruptive and could eclipse the current mobile application model by 2014, delivering revenue of nearly $20 billion annually.

"Mobile application developers today face the challenge of multiple mobile operating systems," says ABI senior analyst Mark Beccue. "Either they must write for just one OS, or create many versions of the same application."

More sophisticated apps require significant processing power and memory in the handset. Using Web development, applications can run on hosted servers, so handset requirements can be greatly reduced and developers can create just one version.

The cloud-based trend is in its infancy today, but ABI Research believes that eventually it will become the prevailing model for mobile applications.

This approach is not without challenges. A cloud-based application stops working if you lose your radio connection. But, new programming languages such as HTML 5 will enable data caching on the handset, allowing work to continue until the wireless connection is restored.

"Cloud computing will bring unprecedented sophistication to mobile applications," Beccue notes.

Business users will benefit from collaboration and data sharing apps. Consumers will gain from remote access apps -- allowing them to monitor home security systems, PCs or DVRs.

That said, one lingering question remains. How will over-the-top cloud-based apps further impact mobile network operator's hopes to increase revenue? If the mobile service provider isn't the catalyst for open innovation, then the evolving ecosystem may relegate them to a lower status in the mobile VAS value-chain.