Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mobile OS Platforms-Which horse should you bet on?

Here is an extract from Golden Gekko's view of the mobile platform landscape today with an insight into likely losers and gainers going forwards:

The mobile ecosystem keeps on evolving faster than ever and it's often difficult to see the macro trends with all the day to day announcements and comments about winners and losers. One of the most exciting things is that nothing is certain.

Here's a short summary of the trends that we are seeing and longer term impact:

Handset Operating Systems and Development Platforms
  • iPhone - Continues to evolve with OS4 being a great leap forward and with the best UI and SDK for developers but overall market share is stablising at about 13.5% of smartphones globally and with only one new device release per year growth is likely to be tempered going forward
  • Android - Outsold iPhone in Q2 and increased their market share by 886% since last year with more handset manufacturers continuing to launch devices and competing against each other with vastly improved hardware including QWERTY keyboards, better cameras as well as very competitive prices and is expected by most to be the nr 1 smartphone OS in 2011
  • RIM continues to hold on to a big share of the smartphone market with 18% based on a wide range of communication and utility focused devices for business users as well as the youth market with an amazing usage adaption among teenagers in the UK thanks to Blackberry Messenger but market share is expected to decline unless Blackberry 6 delivers improved app support and user interface 
  • Nokia has gone from the undisputed leader to an underdog despite still being the global leader in overall market share (36% in Q2) and smartphones (43% in Q2) due to lack of great new devices and unclear strategy of Symbian and MeeGo but we would definitely not rule them out as they still have deep pockets and a very loyal base in emerging markets and a partnership with Intel with even deeper pockets and long term bets riding on the success of MeeGo
  • Palm WebOS went from being a dead horse to a joker when HP acquired Palm earlier this year thanks to having developed the 2nd best OS to iPhone in terms of user experience and based on open standards and as the largest PC manufacturer worldwide HP won't give up in the first place
  • Microsoft Mobile has constantly failed to deliver a really appealing user experience since they first launched the SPV in 2002 and although they undoubtedly provide the best PC - Mobile integration it hasn't been enough but with Windows Mobile 7, the biggest development community in the world and a track record of not giving up they might still have a chance to find a market and slowly grow over the next couple of years from 5% of the smartphone market in Q2
  • Samsung Bada Wave is another unexpected player in the smartphone OS space as they also deliver devices with Android and Windows Mobile but Bada has outperformed most people’s expectations in terms of user experience although it essentially is a Android copycat based on Linux and Java and won’t have much chance in the high-end smartphone segment
  • Webruntime Widgets are not really a OS or a platform but with the popularity of webkit based mobile browsers and the push for standardisation among carriers the widget standard (also referred to as JIL by Vodafone, webruntime by Nokia and WebOS by Palm) it's becoming an important platform and might actually have a good chance of establishing a standard for apps that don't require the latest and greatest from each of the individual platforms.
  • Java ME continues to be the leading platform in terms of installed base and handset sales supported by Symbian, Samsung Bada, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and most proprietary OS from Nokia (e.g. S40), Sony-Ericsson, LG and Samsung with well over 2 billion devices worldwide and over 0.4 billion downloads per month with majority of Java downloads now in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Brazil and China

In conclusion
The media and financial community seems to believe that there can only be two or maybe three winners in the smartphone space like in the PC world with Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX and various Linux versions. What if it’s possible with more? Maybe the market is so big, the technology development so fast and customer preferences so different that there is room for more than three? Google Android definitely looks like the favorite of the day but we don’t think the battle is close to being over. Like we said in a previous update. “In mobile fragmentation is forever. Deal with it.”