The advent of mobile broadband in 2008 will push every mobile network operator to open its network to a wide range of devices, not just those offered by the carriers themselves.

Tha's according to analyst company IDC which claimed that the advent of smart phones, the wide array of mobile web gadgets coming on stream, and the presence of the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational group with more than 30 members dedicated to promoting Google's open-access Android platform, will all shake up the market.

The result of this openness will mark an end to the "walled garden" model for mobile web services that Internet guru Tim Berners-Lee warned about last month at the Mobile Internet World conference in Boston. Under the walled garden model, subscribers can connect only to networks using devices approved by the carrier, and can only use carrier-authorized applications on those devices.

Verizon seemingly pre-empted IDC's prediction last week after it announced it would give its customers the option of connecting to its network through outside devices. Verizon spokeswoman Nancy Stark said at the time that the company had actually been thinking about opening its network for a while because it saw that a "small but growing" number of customers wanted to connect to Verizon's network without having to use a Verizon device.

In addition to their prediction about carriers opening up their networks, IDC predicted an explosion in the use of several different web gadgets that will "bridge the gap between PCs and smart phones." Several of these devices, such as Amazon's Kindle e-book reader and the iPod Touch, have hit the market already. IDC expects that such vendors as Asus, Qisda (BenQ), Compal, Electrobit, and major software companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, will launch "dozens" of similar types of web gadgets in 2008.

Some of IDC's other major predictions for 2008 are:

  • Worsening USeconomic forecasts will lead to slower worldwide IT market growth. IDC projects that overall, the IT market will grow by 5.5 percent to 6 percent worldwide, while US IT spending could drop 3 percent to 4 percent
  • Major market movers, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Google and IBM, will move strongly into the software-as-a-service market
  • The spread of Web 2.0 technology, such as Facebook and YouTube exemplify, will spur the market for content distribution networks to grow by "at least 30 percent." This rapid market growth will mean that several companies, including such telcos as AT&T, will jump into the CDN market and compete with traditional CDN leaders Akamai and Limelight Networks
  • Companies that traditionally have focused on consumer markets, including Google, eBay, Yahoo and Apple, will begin making offerings to small-to-midsize businesses. Conversely, companies such as IBM, who have traditionally focused on enterprise markets, will begin thinking of how to market services and products to consumers