Friday, June 26, 2009

Can There Be One Dominant Player In The Smartphone Market?

When people think about the OS market, it's Microsoft.  When people think about MP3 players, it's iPod.  There's no question about that.

When people think smartphone, you probably get quite a different picture.  And it matters who you  talk to.  Blackberry.  Windows Mobile.  Symbian.  Am I leaving anyone out?  Hmmm....probably.

Palm's newly minted CEO, Jon Rubinstein, believes there can be multiple winners in the smartphone and mobile device market.  It's an assessment that many folks including myself also believe in.

There was a time when Palm had the whole PDA market to itself after Apple withdrew with the Newton all the while people begged Jobs to buy Palm.  Of course that didn't happen.  Today, Palm is struggling to be relevant in the mobile market.

As for Apple, it'll be years before we know if the iPhone has enough attraction and Apple has the ability continue to innovate ahead of its competitors.  We know Apple has planned years ahead.  Nevertheless, iPhone exclusivity deals will keep Apple from an encore performance with the iPhone as it did with the iPod.  It's likely that if Apple will dominate a market outside of MP3 players, it'll have to be a market of mobile devices it creates all to itself.  For now, Apple will have its followers.  A good number to be sure but nothing like the iPod market.  But Apple products tend to generate a loyal following.

RIM likely has the best chance to be a dominant player in the market along with Nokia.  The problem is both of these companies lack the passion it once had.  Nokia with the cell phone market and RIM with the smartphones.  Without reasons for mobile users to stay loyal to these two brands, they will continue to find users looking else where for their mobile needs.  However, if either of these two companies do find that spark of passion to truly innovate, watch out, folks.  Nokia has the best name recognition but RIM is looking to make a big move in China.

That leaves Android and Windows Mobile.  It's hard to say at this point for these two wild cards.  Wild cards?  Because we know so little about how Windows Mobile 7.  We don't know if Zune will be included in the mix or not with Windows Mobile.  Has Microsoft found a cohesive mobile strategy?  We know Android is cheaper in terms of licensing but it seems to lack focus.  Google and its superfriends have had only one Android device, the G1, on the market.  There is also talk about Android in netbooks.  As far as I'm concerned, Android needs more work and until Android 2.0, anything else is beta.

So perhaps, Palm's CEO has is correct.  There will be many winners in the mobile market and there's will be not one super dominant player in the market.  Still, the potential is there for one or two companies to make a move to put a hurt on its competitors.

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