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5 Device Frontiers That Mobile Developers Think Are Coming

I recently had the chance to speak with Michael King, director of enterprise strategy at Appcelerator, the provider of cross-platform development tools for mobile developers. Partnering with IDC, the pair conducted a survey of its broad community of over 350,000 mobile developers.

The results showed that most developers think Facebook is doomed, among other things. Another interesting question included in the survey was what form factors developers think will be important in the next wave of the mobile revolution, and oddly the top response among 4,800 respondents is about as far from mobile as a device can get: your television.


Form Factor






Connected cars



Game consoles



Foldable screen



Google Glass


Sources: Appcelerator and IDC.

Let's dig into each of these possibilities.

1. Televisions
Both Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) clearly have television apps in mind. Google's TV platform has long been built on third-party apps. Apple remains rather picky, in comparison, as to which apps it will currently allow on its Apple TV, but its interface is clearly geared toward the familiar app layout. At this point, it's just a question of when Apple will launch its TV set and open up the platform to third-party developers, not if.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) sits at the content intersection of televisions and game consoles with its popular Xbox, which also has apps available for it. Even popular TV maker Vizio now includes a suite of apps for its smart TVs.

Google TV (top) vs. Apple TV (middle) vs. Vizio TV (bottom). Sources: Google, Apple, and Vizio.

Even though televisions are far from mobile, the apps they'll likely be furnished with will have mobile roots and probably borrow heavily from and sync with their mobile counterparts.

The TV content industry is ripe for disruption, and armies of developers appear up to the task.

2. Connected cars
You don't carry them around in your pocket, but cars are, by definition, mobile. Instead of using dangerously distracting touch-interfaces, cars now use voice recognition, frequently powered by market leader Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN  ) . The company has partnered with General Motors, Ford, and Toyota Motor, among others, powering the voice interactions for their respective OnStar/MyLink, Sync, and Entune platforms.

It's now common for cars to either have apps built in, or for the vehicle to sync with your smartphone's apps. The use cases that developers can imagine here would be very different, using primarily voice interactions, but also more limited due to safety concerns. No one needs to check their email while driving.

3. Game consoles
Speaking of content industries ripe for disruption, game consoles also happen to fit that bill. Traditional consoles from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft utilize a broken console licensing model that primarily benefits the console manufacturer at the expense of the developer, adding costs and stifling innovation in the process.

That's why the low-cost, Android-powered Ouya project has such disruptive potential, because it uses components typically found in mobile gadgets, whose gaming performance continues to soar exponentially. It will have lower barriers to entry for smaller developers, spurring competition.

4. Foldable screen
There are many uses for foldable displays, which will largely be facilitated by OLED displays. Pushing that technological revolution forward is Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) , which develops IP for the technology and licenses it to display makers like Samsung or LG Display.

Costs remain high, as OLED is in its relative infancy, but a foldable screen could potentially give developers access to other mediums, like magazines and newspapers.

5. Google Glass
Wearable computing really is the holy grail of mobile devices. It's straight out of science fiction and simply doesn't get more mobile than that. While Apple has quietly filed various patents related to wearable devices, Google has the clearest vision of what you'll be able to see through Google Glass.

The opportunity for developers in wearable platforms is limitless and entirely untapped. It's encouraging to see such a positive response among the developer community for a device that has yet to even be commercialized and only a handful of people have even experienced firsthand.

The future isn't that far away
All of these device frontiers are within technological reach. As with any platform of any kind, they'll rely on engaging content to give them life and appeal to consumers. The good news is that developers are already on board.

The Motley Fool has just recently launched premium ticker-specific reports that lay out everything you need to know. They all come with free updates included at no additional cost. Make sure to grab the one on Apple and the one on Microsoft today!

Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Universal Display and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Ford, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Universal Display. The Motley Fool is short Sony and has the following options: long JAN 2014 $20.00 calls on Facebook and long JAN 2013 $22.00 calls on Sony. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Facebook, Ford, General Motors Company, Google, Nuance Communications, and Universal Display. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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