AT&T’s Tea Leaves – What’s ahead for mobile developers in 2011.

* Note:  This is a first in our series of 2011 Predictions.  Check back every day next week for others, and on January 1 for a collection of all of them, and to vote for your favorite.


One of my favourite people in the mobile developer ecosystem is Ed Schmidt from AT&T.  Ed is a Director in their Developer Program which is a nice title and all, but doesn’t really speak to the volume of his knowledge of mobile development nor his passion for developers.  I thought it would be fun to interview him and get his predictions for 2011. 

Deeper Apps vs Lighter Apps

As other technologies are evolving around mobile development, Ed sees a trend toward deeper and more capable applications coming in 2011.  Ed’s definition of Deeper Apps is similar to what we at WIP have been calling Mobile Apps 2.0 – a confluence of stronger technology, better tools, and better product/life cycle development.

Ed noted that some of this will come because of ‘the cloud; and the networking based computing paradigm, where even web apps will increasingly leverage the cloud.

However, we will also see stronger more technical devices in 2011 with multi-core / SMP processors, more memory, and higher performance GPUs which will give developers a better environment to take advantage of and create these deeper applications.  Ed’s recommendation:  squeeze what you can out of every different device, especially look to optimize the deep graphics capabilities.

So where does that leave the Lighter Apps?   Ed sees more of these coming as well, heighten as HTML 5 increases in adoption and adds more capabilities into the top layer, it will enable a richer application experience.  Expect tremendous growth here as it blends with the cloud and enables better connections and enables more social networking apps and multi-player games.  In keeping with this, expect HTML and java script skills to be hot. 


It’s not all about technology

 As what happened in the PC world, the developers who created the deeper applications were able to make more money and be sustainable.  Lighter apps are also easier to build so expect yet more developers to enter this market, making for an even fiercer competitive scene in 2011.


Ed chuckles as he tells the story about his father, an old time programmer from the 70s.  Mr. Schmidt is now having fun and being successful developing an ‘easy’ html mobile app focused on tourist information for his small community. (See photos of Ed’s Dad as a young programmer and a mobile developer today!)   Mr. Schmidt early software programmer    Mr. Schmidt Mobile Developer today.

The moral of this story:  count on competition coming from all directions.  In order to succeed with a Lighter app business you have to be unique and carve out a niche, because light apps are easily replicated.  As Ed says, “if you are going to be light, you better have a heck of an idea


Increase in Recommendation Sites

As the number of applications increase, discovery will remain a big issue for 2011.  Ed predicts a growth in Recommendation sites, which has started to be a trend in late 2010.  He also sees users strongly going to sites where they are able to see how their friends relate and recomend apps.  This will be far more valuable than general reviews. 

He advises developers to keep the momentum going when you do launch your app.  Feed on it and maximize the window.  Be sure to enhance your pre-launch/beta testing beyond friends and family.  Then keep building on it and talk to your users to get a  continual loop of feedback.


Hotter Devices and Tablets

Of course Ed knows allot more of what is coming in devices and technology that what he could tell me.  Suffice to say, expect the Year of the Tablets, more hot devices, bigger screens, and more capable hardware.   He pointed to the BlackBerry Playbook, which he expects to be appealing to developers and a perfect example of the opportunity for developers to go deep and wide with new applications.


What can we expect from AT&T in 2011?

Ed says they are working hard to make the on boarding process effortless and working with more enabling companies like Ground Truth (analytics) to get developers what they need to build deeper apps, get their apps to market faster and see success.

A tough sector for sure, but I agree wholeheartedly with Ed who says:  Mobile development is still an exciting space.  Every year gets more exiting and more interesting and is never boring!

You can meet Ed and gain more of his great insight at the AT&T Developer Summit taking place at The Palms in Las Vegas on January 5th.   Ed has a presentation at 11am entitled:  Navigate the Mobile Development Revolution