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The year 2010 was the year of mobile – there is no denying that. From major disruptions in device market share to market-changing acquisitions, folks who play or are looking to buy mobile solutions—whether enterprise or consumer—have a lot of processing to do as they head into 2011. Let’s review major trends and the biggest stories of the year that had or will have the big impact on the mobile and wireless space.

Android Adoption Skyrockets

Google’s multiple manufacturer partnerships resulted in a slew of new Android phones this year – from basic affordable phones to high-end, productivity-focused phones like the Droid Pro, Droid X and the Samsung Fascinate.

And, it seems that Google’s plan worked. Gartner and other analysts said devices running Android out-shipped Apple and RIM. Plus, Gartner predicted that Android will become the world’s number two mobile OS this year—lagging behind Symbian.  Although security issues still remain and enterprises are a bit wary of supporting Android, the future looks even brighter for Android. Gartner also says that Android and Symbian will hold a combined market share of almost 60 percent by 2014, and that Android may even overcome Symbian by 2014. 2011 holds even more Android devices for unveiling—look to CES coming up fast—with newer social and media features supported on the newest iterations of Android.

Microsoft Tries to Make a Mobile Comeback

Once the de facto leader in the enterprise smartphone market (and even the consumer market), Microsoft blew it big time by failing to release innovative and sexy operating systems, instead opting for stop-gap releases like Windows 6.5 and continually delaying the launch and availability of what is now Windows Phone 7, released in October. Although the new OS is received by Redmond fans as pretty cool and savvy, is it too little too late? Gartner jabbed the software giant again when it predicted that Microsoft would continually lose market share and put the company almost dead last in its prediction rankings. Time will tell, but there is no denying that Redmond has a big hill to climb back to the top—and going head to head with Apple and Google who already have such fans and traction will be tough. It is trying, though, with mobile management shakeups and big marketing campaigns. It doesn’t appear that Microsoft can really even lean on the enterprise space anymore, as the consumerization of IT is driving personal use devices rapidly into business use cases. Look to 2011 for the state of Microsoft’s mobile future to become clearer, and see what they need to do to scale the mountain.

Google Spends a Bundle to Strengthen Android

The search giant has made no secret of its plans for mobile domination, and its 2010 M&A strategy was focused on everything mobile and social. Many of its mobile acquisitions focused on improving Android functionality – like visual mobile search provider PlinkArt, and music synching techie firm Simplify Media as well as Touch Typing and Bump—and the list goes on…and on. Most of the acquisitions were relatively small in cash value, but the point is that Google is focused on continuing to solidify Android as the most innovative platform, and instead of spinning dev cycles internally, knows it can get quicker to market by gobbling up innovative start-ups that can be easily integrated into its newest versions. The upgrades and feature sets to come in the newest versions of Android have the potential to truly solidify Google as the leader in mobile OS, and maybe even leave Apple in the dust.

HP Takes Major Mobile Stride with Palm Acquisition

After struggling for years to determine a mobile strategy, HP finally made a definitive move by acquiring struggling platform vendor Palm for $1.2 billion. Palm, once the darling of the smartphone/PDA market, wooed HP with its innovative webOs, and could help HP expand its mobile offerings from devices (like the tablet expected in March and other anticipated smartphones) to enterprise apps.

Motorola and Microsoft Go to Court

Motorola said about 2 years ago it was squarely in Android’s corner and dropped Windows Phone/Windows Mobile as its preferred operating system for the consumer division. That was a punch square between the eyes for Microsoft which had been steadily losing market share in the mobile OS space for quite a while. But, it appears that Motorola made the right move, its phones are selling like hot cakes—like, really good hot cakes—and reports of some of its new releases flying off the shelves and being in short supply were rampant. Microsoft didn’t take the news lying down or very well, in fact, and instead filed a patent lawsuit against former bedfellow Motorola for patent infringement days before it was to unveil its Windows Phone 7. In response, Moto filed one back…and so on and so forth. It’s getting ugly out there, and look for the wars and mudslinging to continue while Motorola’s Android devices continue to grow in popularity next year.

SAP Declares Mobile Key to Future and Buys Sybase

Big mobile enterprise news was not just limited to the influx of consumer mobile devices for application use, but German giant SAP made a big step into the mobile foray after years of struggling internally to decipher a mobile strategy. Its purchase of enterprise mobile kingpin Sybase meant a few things to the enterprise mobile market:

  1. SAP sees mobile not as a checkbox, but as converging with traditional modes of application access and knows it must offer robust applications and platforms that enable its massive customer base to optimize usage across multiple platforms, and
  2. Sybase’s mobile banking and finance MSP model provides great recurring revenue and a solid opportunity for integrating mobile commerce into the whole of the SAP application suite, and
  3. Sybase’s extensive partner and user base of its mobile middleware products extends its reach into one of the fastest growing enterprise infrastructure and application markets.

Most analysts say SAP made a smart and very well-calculated move.

Tablets, Tablets Everywhere

The year 2010 saw tablets come of age – it was the first year where tablets experienced mass adoption and provided solid opportunities for resellers.  Apple’s iPad was not the only device that enjoyed success. The recently released Samsung Galaxy Tab sold a couple million, and the Dell Streak also sold well. Look in 2011 for more tablets—such as the one from RIM and the iPad 2—to be released. It may be that the tablet is here to stay, and we’ll see more and more penetration into the enterprise because of the consumerization of IT. Gartner certainly thinks so, the analyst firm revised PC shipment estimates pointing to the increasing popularity of tablets as one of the key factors for lower numbers.

Google and Apple Get in to Mobile Advertising

After dropping their “Don’t Be Evil” mantra which gave Steve Jobs a ton of good fodder for slamming the search giant, Google decided to purchase AdMob, announcing the acquisition back in November of 2009 for $750 million. However, Jobs turned the tables this year by acquiring Quattro Wireless for a third as much, and, in turn, got a solid mobile ad delivery platform with a solid customer base (names such as  NetFlix, P&G and others). So what does that mean for the mobile space? It means Apple’s and Google’s war of words and mudslinging is going to enter the mobile advertising space next year, most likely. But perhaps Google should thank Apple – the only way to get Google’s AdMob acquisition approved quickly was for Apple to make the Quattro Wireless move.