Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Apple Competitors Tries to Catch Up At World Mobile Congress

Fortune provided a summary of what Apple's competitors are doing to help overcome Apple's innovative lead in the mobile market.  Whether you think this lead is perceived or real, most mobile warriors will agree that anything mobile these days will be compared to what Apple is doing with the iPhone or be compared to the iPhone.

The market falls largely into three segments: 
  • folks who will buy anything Apple
  • folks who will buy anything but Apple - but likes the iPhone, just not Apple
  • folks who want a good mobile device
With the above said, it stands to reason that while there are innovations going on outside of Cupertino (shocking, eh?), Apple seems to have the pole position these days.  You don't see many posts or articles on Storm killer now, do you?

So, at Barcelona, many mobile providers and device makers used the Mobile World Congress to lay out their strategies:
  • Nokia:  with their Ovi store, they will create social-centric applications that leverage their huge installed base.  Media will be part of their emphasis.  Also, Skype will come pre-installed on many Nokia phones in the 3rd quarter.
  • Android Marketplace:  Google started accepting paid apps this week but since the debut of the G1, it was all free apps only.  Users were subjected to beta status (my opinion that is widely shared by many users).  There was a belated update a couple of weeks ago but until we see what apps are available, we can't give a proper opinion at this time.  Also, Google will allow users to ask for their money back within 24 hours of buying an app if they are not satisfied.  However, if you want the money back, you'll need to get it from the developers.  And you will have to use Google Checkout.  In a way, it's a free for all so that will be interesting to watch.
  • Palm Pre: very little information at this time.  It'll be difficult for Palm to differentiate itself from what its users are used to now.  It's like there won't be one but multiple store fronts for users to choose from.  Music will come from Amazon.
  • Symbian: This is an interesting one.  With Nokia coming out with Ovi, will Symbian apps be folded into the Ovi store?  How about 3rd stores like Pocketgear that has largely supported Symbian effort?  
  • Blackberry Applications Center: very little is known about it at this time.  Despite all the attention the iPhone is getting, RIM sells more units than Apple and that's a good thing for RIM.  By virtue of its installed base in the smartphone market, they're still the ones to beat.  And should RIM come out with a creative store, watch out.
  • Microsoft: been in this business for years.  Apple made the app store easier to use but Microsoft has just as many apps as the iPhone's app store.  Can't wait to see the two go at it.I'm talking about iPHone 3.0 and windows Mobile 7.
While the Fortune article largely forgotten about T-Mobile and the other mobile providers, I haven't.  Yeah, our gatekeepers.  It's difficult to say what the dynamics and relationships they will have with device makers and the customers.  In the past, the wireless providers ruled the market.  

They say jump, and we ask whether it's a cliff or bridge they want us to jump off of.  Today, that has changed.  A year ago, no phone maker would think about creating their own app stores and services separately from the providers.  So until these app stores actually open and the services in effect, we can't say how much weight the wireless providers will have in selling their own apps and services.

My hope is one in which each platform will have multiple stores to choose from.  Of course, that'll never be the case with the iPhone.  

I believe we're just seeing the beginning of another jump in mobile computing and services.  Once all the stores are out there, mobile warriors will likely witness another leap in innovation for app distribution, communications, and services.  There's always be a leader others are trying to catch up to.

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