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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
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October 23, 2008 -- Collateral Damage
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A lot of poor logic there. You imply that the market always settle down to a dominant platform, then dismiss the current platform. If the situation is that fluid then clearly being dominant NOW is meaningless.

However Symbian has been dominant for nearly a decade, so, according to your original thesis, Apple will be the one with the 10% (or even 5%).

In summary, if the market is able to change as rapidly as you suggest, you cant count out any of the players (or even unknown new ones).

Surur | Oct 23, 2008 | 3:44PM

Excellent analysis Bob. I jumped from a Treo to a Blackberry, and am happy I did. However I view the iPhone as my eventual choice. First the AT&T lock-in has to expire, as I would seriously prefer to endure a week in a dentist's chair rather than voluntarily become a customer of AT&T. I won't get fooled again.

Finally, the iPhone platform has to mature. The killer feature for me right now is UMA. Like your former situation on the left coast I live in the boonies with ZERO cell coverage. UMA is the only way I can have a cell phone that works at home. T-mobile supports UMA through their "hot spot @ home" program and I'm a happy T-mobile customer. Thankfully like AT&T (ex-cingular) T-mobile's network is compatible with the iPhone as-is, so I expect a UMA-capable iPhone as soon as the AT&T exclusive with Apple expires.


chuck goolsbee | Oct 23, 2008 | 3:44PM

right on!

JPL | Oct 23, 2008 | 3:44PM

You're completely forgetting the Windows Mobile platform, which still sells more units than RIM. Blackberries are found almost exclusively in North America. Not to sound cliche, but Windows Mobile is huge in Asia and Europe and is more successful than Symbian or iPhone in North America.

Joe McKalla | Oct 23, 2008 | 3:52PM

Hmm...change "smartphone" to "PC," "Apple" to "IBM," and the year to 1981, and history appears to be repeating itself just a little bit. At least this time, the 800-pound gorilla owns the OS.

David | Oct 23, 2008 | 3:59PM

Chuck, if you have no cell reception in the boonies, why don't you just use a land line?

Steve Dean | Oct 23, 2008 | 4:52PM

Sorry Bob, but you're wrong. Every mobile carrier in the United States has a Windows Mobile phone - most have two or three. Who in the USA carries a Symbian phone? No one. Who carries an Android phone? One. Who carries an iPhone? One.

Franklyn Brown | Oct 23, 2008 | 4:56PM

IPod + Itunes, the two made an unbeatable team. If you wanted easy music on a mobile MP3 player you used this team.

IPhone + any carrier out there. There's not overwhelming reason to use the IPhone in this scenario. It's not like there's an IPhone + (world's best satellite,4G,cosmic comm service) out there. So the case for IPhone pulling an 85%'er is slim.

What about Palm? By all rights it should be dead by now. But they're even preparing a new version of their OS...

Unfortunately WinMob is damn ugly as a phone OS. Nobody want's Windows on their phone. However, WinMob development is extremely easy to perform. I love it. But it's too bad the whole custom mobile app market just never blossomed. And this is where WinMob would shine.

But in general, there is no reason for the market to consolidate into a triumvirate standard. A fractured market works just fine. Ask mobile phone users what OS is running on their phone - 95% of them won't know. It's just not important. Ask PC users what OS they use - 100% of them will know that answer.

Dave Cline | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:08PM

Your 85-10-5 gambling analogy is a bit misplaced. It is likely that in Poker or Parimutual betting that the stats are 85-10-5, but the reason Las Vegas has lots of big shiny buildings has nothing to do with zero-sum gambling, but with games where the house participates in the game, and typically has a significant odds edge over the player.

Nick Sayer | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:09PM

Even though I'm a devoted Apple user, I'm not convinced the iPhone will end up on top -- Apple's closed nature and limited number of product lines will probably keep it from being dominant.

But you're spot on about Windows Mobile. It is, and always has been, an unusable platform. It's not only not user-friendly, it's downright user-hostile. The ONLY thing it has going for it is a decent development community, but the thunder that the iPhone doesn't steal will be stolen by Android.

Sorry, Microsoft, nobody wants a task manager on their phone.

Reid | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:13PM

your "rule of three" is interesting - there was a great study that was published in the harvard business review years ago about companies that outdid their competition over the long haul that compared stocks over the last 100 years.

The short story is that there are 3 areas of competition: price, features, customer service.

The winners were overwhelmingly companies that were the best in their sector in ONLY ONE of the three and no better than average at the others.

It's a mess when you talk about something like cell phones which are dependent on OS/Hardware/carrier/integrator roles, handled by multiple companies.

But Apple has NEVER sold a commodity product. How could then be the price leader needed for the 85% market share and still deliver the features and customer experience that allows the iphone to have huge margins?

jonathan peterson | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:15PM

To Franklyn Brown: The U.S. mobile carriers will have to change with the times, as they are falling way behind compared to their European/Asian/Japanese counterparts. You say that only one carrier has the iPhone now. But how many hundreds of thousands/millions of subscribers have switched to AT&T just to have it?

Max Timchenko | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:24PM

You missed one important item as well; will there be an iPhone for CDMA, until there is, they cannot have 85% market share. My company made the decision (in Canada and the US) to go not with Rogers/AT&T (or any other US GSM phone) in favour of Bell and Verizon, simply due to the superior coverage of CDMA over GSM for the oil and gas industry.

John Burt | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:34PM

If windows mobile is user hostile (I wouldn't know) and Apple can't learn how to properly open it's platform (been living that for 25 years) then it's Android's game to lose, no? Or does it have an Achilles heal of it's own?

Davo | Oct 23, 2008 | 5:40PM

Bob's a romantic, not a realist.

Bob's envisioning a post-modern, open airwaves network when what we have are a series of walled-garden pathways.

Who's going to be the SECOND carrier to adopt the iPhone in the U.S.? No carrier wants to become a dumb bit-pipe and cede all its power to a handset maker.

A better analogy would be the CBS-NBC-ABC division of airwaves that lasted in its heyday from the 1950s into the 1990s. There was no 85-10-5 division of marketshare there. Instead some specific events/shows would make one broadcaster rise a bit above for a short time. Eventually cable and other entertainment venues (video games, web-surfing, Fox, etc.) eroded the big 3 presence by death of 1000 cuts.

Carriers will always demand and provide custom content or they will die and they know it. Streaming video will offer carrier-custom channels, mobile finance by proximity transfer (RFID/NFC) means that carriers will choose the banks and bank cards you can use.

This isn't the Internet. This is a conglomeration of toll-roads with operator toll-booths at every on-ramp.

Telecom John | Oct 23, 2008 | 6:04PM

It's always about Apple when reading Cringley. But I don't seem em remaining a major player in the phone space. Reason? Simple, really; the telcos aren't going to allow anyone to steal their profits for long and that is exactly what Apple would have to do to stay in the game and make the kind of money Apple needs to make to keep their stock in the imaginary valuations it usually enjoys.

Once we remember that Apple exists to serve a niche of upscale folk with lots of disposable income and a need to display status brand logos the split has to be Apple with the 5 in the 85-10-5 ratio. The exception has been the iPod but notice now that 'everybody' has one they aren't status symbols anymore.

So who will really win this impending smart phone throwdown? Well lets look at the parameters. If smart phones are destined to become how most people interract with computers and the Internet then it will HAVE to be open enough to allow folk to download software without the telco or platform owner being the gatekeeper.

Another strike against Apple but that still leaves Windows Mobile, Android and Symbian in the game. The big G is making noises about remote kill switches so watch to see if they 'do evil' and screw themselves.

The winner needs to be 'mass market acceptable'. Again, Apple dies if they ever try to live on mass market consumer electronics margins and their software won't ever appear on anyone else's hardware. All three of the others have the potential to pass this test. Remember that Microsoft WILL put Windows Mobile on handsets even if it has to give it away while it figures out how to make money. THey are smart enough to know that if they get cut out of the next big thing it will be all but impossible to break back in later so don't let the fact the other two are free confuse you.

Observe the netbook market. Windows XP is crushing the life out of Free Linux right now because Microsoft is doing whatever it takes to avoid conceding a new and growing market.

So being a pessimist I am going to predict Windows Mobile 85%, Android 15% and iPhone 5%. Microsoft will pay handset makers if they have to to install their stuff on any phone where the customer doesn't explicitly make a choice. Android has the big G behind it and will have enough advantages to get the higher end tech savvy market and Apple will get the people Apple always gets, the people with lots of cash and little savvy.

Tht leaves Symbian adn Palm screwed. Both are good and have lots of recommend them but neither have the unlimited marketing cash of Microsoft, the tech cred and newness of Google/Android or the elite branding of Apple.

John Morris | Oct 23, 2008 | 6:32PM

@ John Burt,

CDMA may never come. There is still around 2 more years of AT&T-only in the US and while CDMA usage is growing, it's still shrinking in comparison to the ~75% dominance of GSM throughout the world. N. America is around 50/50 right now, but in 5 years Apple can still go with carriers that currently use CDMA while never supporting CDMA if UMB never gets adopted. Eventually, it looks like all carriers will use the same air interface, though not all on the same frequencies.

Solipsism | Oct 23, 2008 | 7:08PM

CDMA will eventually disappear. This is merely a replay of Betamax vs. VHS. The overwhelming majority of cell phone users worldwide are on the GSM standard. The USA is not more than 50% GSM and it is only a matter of time till Verizon and Sprint fall in line. If one needs to travel then GSM is the first phone of choice to get virtually world wide coverage.

Ian Joseph | Oct 23, 2008 | 7:13PM

Ooops, the above should read: The USA is NOW more than 50% GSM.

Ian Joseph | Oct 23, 2008 | 7:19PM

Apple probably can't make enough per unit at the margins available to an 85% share. What they might do is hit 25% (or even 40%), so that if Android (or Rim or Symbian or Palm or another embedded *nix or door #3) hold out, they can keep MS below its own minimum market share.

As John Morris points out, MS may stay in anyhow for strategic reasons, but I suspect Apple would enjoy at least making MS overpay for that privilege.

JimJ | Oct 23, 2008 | 7:42PM

alot of other minds out there on the net see it the same way.

Microsoft only follows others they're never the leader, consequently they're always behind.

ken | Oct 23, 2008 | 7:47PM

CDMA will not be relevant over the mid- to long-term. The largest CDMA operator - Verizon Wireless - announced almost a year ago that it would be moving to 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) for its 4G network. 3GPP is the GSM family of wireless technologies.

Similarly, Telus, a major Canadian CDMA operator, announced it would also be moving to a 3GPP network platform (initially HSPA -- High Speed Packet Acccess -- and then transitioning to LTE).

RJB | Oct 23, 2008 | 9:38PM

Is it just me or is there actually some logic in there that I totally missed?
Lets factor in Apple's MO that has so far resulted in them only ever having captured 5% of the PC market... CONTROL! Jobs middle name is proprietary, his second name might as well be incompatible and if he had a third name it would be freak. Sure the iphone buzz is driving the smart phone market, it was the iphone that made me consider buying a smartphone until I thought about how incompatible anything Mac would be with anything PC.
To quote Ballmer, Windows mobile is used by 55 handset makers and 175 operators. Apple is 1 & 1 as is Android so it's a bit early to start predicting the death of Windows LOL. The funny thing is that the sole Android handset maker in question (HTC) is also the biggest seller of Win Mobile phones.

Paul | Oct 24, 2008 | 1:57AM

Apple will not be the lead. Sure the iPhone may be the best selling individual phone, but you add up all the others and it gets killed as a platform. Unlike MP3 players, and their locked store fronts, most people choose a carrier and a phone. At least they do after they choose a carrier based on 1 phone, or 1 feature, and get locked into 24 months of spotty coverage and bad customer service.

Craig | Oct 24, 2008 | 2:35AM

While I completely agree with you on the Symbian point (it really is dieing platform), I really don't see any arguments you give for Windows Mobile fade-away.
And comparing iPhone with RIM and WM doesn't make much sense for me as well. iPhone is smartphone platform for dumb users, while RIM and WM are focused mainly on business and IT-smart users (respectively).

Ivan | Oct 24, 2008 | 3:04AM

What about if Microsoft buys the Number 1 (what you said) and becomes still number 1 with 85%. Guess they are capable of it

raja | Oct 24, 2008 | 3:22AM

WInMo will die, and Android will win.

MS shipped 18M licenses last year, at about $15 a poop, for $270M, total.

Apple just shipped 6.9M iPhones last quarter at about $650 each, including carrier subsidy, and made $4.6B in sales.

Apple, with one phone is far ahead of MS in revenue generated in mobile sales, and it's only going to get worse. Where's MS's response? WinMo7? It's delayed already. Android will fill the void, and make money as the search engine for mobile devices. Of course, Apple steers search to Google, so they win there, too.

KenC | Oct 24, 2008 | 4:09AM


You're bang on. In this game MS isn't the big player that it is on the desktop. They will become irrelevant shortly. How long can you compete against free when your product isn't up to scratch?

MS will pay the price in this game for being slow, sloppy and not seeing the huge potential this market had to offer. WinMo has been a fiasco from start to finish. Apple sat back and watched everyone screwing up, lined up all the pieces and is knocking them down one by one. Kerching! They acted fast on many of the 1st gen iPhone weaknesses like enterprise support. How long has it taken MS to get its act together in this marketplace?

They're hopeless when they don't have the monopoly position. Slow to act. No original ideas. No style and no great revenue raising power ($15 per license is lame and will soon likely be zero too...).

My crystal ball predicts Android on about 60% with Apple happy on 30% of smartphones. However, I think a range of iPhone Nano's could be HUGE, especially when you see just how easy it could be to add some phone circuitry and a slightly bigger screen to the current model. I wouldn't like to be Nokia just now...

John Mac | Oct 24, 2008 | 5:22AM

John Mac,

Apple "acted fast" to fix enterprise support by licensing the technology from Microsoft.. :)

Also, you don't just slap some phone circuitry into an ipod nano to make an iphone nano. You might be able to use the same screen and some of the audio codec, but that is about it. Ask an engineer.

I do not argue the point that Windows Mobile and Symbian most likely are going to shrink away though, neither has ever been particularly good to begin with. Now that there are alternatives in the form of Android and iPhone catering to the same audience it is just a matter of time.

dave | Oct 24, 2008 | 6:29AM

Basic phones will be around for a while. People value small phones - and a smartphone needs a decent size screen. And not everybody wants to pay smartphone prices - they may be cheap on contract (if you don't count the contract price), but not on pay-as-you-go.

In the long term smartphones may take over. But right now - and for some years to come - there is a big market in more basic models.

Paul King | Oct 24, 2008 | 6:36AM

No company has ever held 85% of the market in the mobile phone space, Apple won't either. The iPhone is too closed to get that kind of marketshare, even if they slowly make it more open. Every day that passes, the company looks more like Microsoft in that respect, but now not only on software, but also on the hardware.
The comparison you make between iPod and iPhone is incorrect. An iPod is not an iPhone, the iPod audience is completely different from the iPhone audience. Next to that, Apple doesn't have the advantage in market-conditions they had with the iPod, namely a completely new market (that of portable mp3). There are many strong players in the mobile space. Microsoft could be doomed though in the mobile space.

wouter | Oct 24, 2008 | 7:33AM

You're seriously predicting an 85% market share for the iPhone? Did I read that corerectly??? I'm sorry, but I think you are hallucinating.

Matt | Oct 24, 2008 | 8:03AM

You're seriously predicting an 85% market share for the iPhone? Did I read that corerectly??? I'm sorry, but I think you are hallucinating.

Matt | Oct 24, 2008 | 8:03AM

I happen to think Robert is exactly right on this. Having developed for the Android platform (even one small game out there), and having tried to develop for WM and Symbian before, I can say that Android is a lot more accessable to a developer. So you'll see a lot of movement there - although it won't gain the kind of marketshare that Apple will since Google is trying to be both open and closed at the same time. They (Google)have an open source OS but are telling developers that some APIs are reserved. They have an "open" market - if you're willing to pay $25 to list your application (how is that better than the App Store, other than being slightly cheaper?), and so you'll see a fractured market where the user goes to two or three markets to find apps.

Regardless, this means that developers looking for a payoff will migrate to Apple, where the casual developer will start at Android. And WM will be nowhere to be found...

Ewan Grantham | Oct 24, 2008 | 8:35AM

Combining the smartphone market with the general cellphone market is as erroneous as it would be to combine the PC desktop market with the PC server market. Apples & oranges.

The vast majority of cellphones will never be "smartphones". Even as costs come down most customers have no desire for custom apps and certainly don't want to buy a more expensive and heftier phone to get them. Interestingly the one technology that can serve both high and low markets is Qualcomm's BREW. They will be a player in the global LTE/4G market and Bob erred by not counting them.

The huge advantage of the Apple & Blackberry platforms is they provide an integrated data platform. Android will take marketshare away from WINMO and Symbian first. Apple could very well get majority share of the smartphone market but I'm certain they will always have the best profit margins.

Dan | Oct 24, 2008 | 10:02AM

No way does Apple end up with 85% share... not even close. It won't even be the leader in a couple years due to Apple's proprietary OS strategy. They make a great product & I have one, but it's market share potential is limited. Phones are a totally different ball game than iPod's with much more at stake.
Might be right on windows mobile. The OS isn't great, but the core CE kernel just works. Many other posters fail to recognize how different the US phone market is from the rest of the world. The US is an anomaly, and is the only market where WM can be considered successful today. If windows mobile eventually fails, which it might, Microsoft will launch a new CE branch with a different economic model. I don't think Microsoft will be the market share leader, but will always be a player, and I suspect it's global market share will rise over the next 5 years.

JV | Oct 24, 2008 | 10:02AM

The argument is flawed, since the iPhone is tied to AT&T/Cingular, and there's no way that 85% of the smartphone population is going to be using AT&T exclusively.

Android's openness, not to software, but to service providers, will probably be what pushes its acceptance.

Hugo Hackenbush | Oct 24, 2008 | 10:20AM

*sniff* A sad tale. The best OS isn't even in the picture - PalmOS. They gave up on themselves.

Dan | Oct 24, 2008 | 10:52AM

Between their Danger Hip Top acquisition (think Sidekcik) and Zune platform, I agree "Windows Mobile" will be dead in 2011. But Microsoft will still be a strong player in the high-end mobile phone OS market... with a new name.

Dave Zatz | Oct 24, 2008 | 11:27AM

Who will be in the top three is up for conjecture but WinMo is already roadkill because the arrogant Bloatfarm adopted its FU attitude to "smartphone" users.

It foisted a shrunken down version of ie onto the WinMo platform and essentially told users "take it or leave it" because, owning the Win monopoly, it could do that. Users now get revenge and desert the Bloatfarm.

The Bloatfarmers never conceived that users wanted actually to have real internet access rather than access being yet another meaningless bullet point on a Bloatfarm PPT presentation.

Along came Apple with a usable and enjoyable browser (not like the Bloatfarm horror which cannot render far too many pages).

How has the Bloatfarm reacted? With its usual FU attitude. It will expel WinMo7 in a year or so from the Redmond tomb. (Sigh.)

Will the last person at WinMo HQ please turn out the lights?

I had use 11 WinMo devices before going to the iPhone.

All were grotesquely, obtusely stupid to use.

Example: until WinMo 6, if you wanted to see the battery status, you had to drill down through 3-4 menus. If you wanted to kill an app, you had to do likewise.

WinMo was (note the past tense) astoundingly inconvenient to use; the browser was beyond stupid. Early models would abruptly abend and lose all their settings. (What were those silly Bloatfarmers thinking? Did they think everyone had hours to re-input all the settings even if they could remember or find them?)

WinMo stands as another monument to monopolistic stupidity and the laziness of Ballmer who will be remembered for squandering the MSFT monopolies.

Ballmer and much of the Bloatfarm senior management should be immediately installed in the Business Hall of Shame for WinMo, PlaysForSure, Zune, Xbox, SPoT, LiveSearch (soon to be renamed DeadSearch when it, too, is abandoned) and the biggest abortion of them all: Vista.

Microsoft: A Band of Jerks.

Jeremy Wa | Oct 24, 2008 | 11:28AM

The problem I see with iPhone 85% is that Apple isn't producing enough iPhones to come near to being able to sell that many. Nor, with iPhone locked to favored carriers for contracted years still to come, can they gain that much market since many mobile phone services can't offer them at all.

David B. | Oct 24, 2008 | 12:37PM

The TV network comment about NBC/ABC/CBS not following the 85-10-5 rule is an example of looking too closely. The 'media' market consisted at the time of television, radio, and books.

The entire article, though, is off-base because smartphones are not the wave of the future. I don't know anyone who actually _works_ on them. You can call people, text them, search web pages, listen to music, but can you type a novel or configure a spreadsheet? For work, you need 3 things: a large screen (video out might help), a good-sized keyboard (input jack might help) and lengthy battery life--no help there. People will use smartphones until they get tired of having dead batteries which is equalt to zero communication. They will then curtail their surfing/downloading/listening until they reach a happy medium of cell phone battery life and tablet/laptop use for 'work'--something that involves more than simple communication.

Has anyone here built a web page form that accepts user input on their phone? On the phone, not on Android/iPhone sdk on a laptop.

Mike Moxcey | Oct 24, 2008 | 12:47PM

Apple could never be the market leader in the cell phone game because they are a glitzy, high-profit outfit always trying to get you to buy a new gadget at inflated prices. The majority of cell phone users want their cheap handset and cheap monthly plan. Apple will never sell low priced items to "commoners"

Larry Bank | Oct 24, 2008 | 1:25PM

I don't see a so dark future for Windows Mobile. First, I do not agree with your affirmation that iPhone SDK is light-years ahead of the others. Actually, on Windows Mobile you have .NET Compact Framework (a very stable, powerful and well-known platform) and the SDKs for using some features like telephone which are also easy to learn.

Another point: there are approximately 50 hardware manufacturers which are developing mobile phones with Windows Mobile on them.

I do agree with one point you mentioned: the future in this market, and actually the desktop market's too, will mean no cost for licencing. So I guess (I also hope :)) Microsoft will cut costs for licencing Windows Mobile and eventually will figure out a way to make money out of it. And the business model I am referring to is strictly related to cloud platforms.

Mihai Tataran | Oct 24, 2008 | 1:41PM

Come on Crigley? Apple will dominate in smartphones? Never. Nor will Google. Why? The primary function of a smart phone is as a mobile extension of the desktop, and that's Windows. I think it is more likely that MSFT cleans up Windows Mobile (7 looks good), and starts cleaning up in the smartphone market. Android, as with Linix before it, is perpetually relegated to thrid place. Opensource cannot really compete. Apple, as usual, will take the dedicated 10% spot. What about RIM? That's easy, MSFT, as has been rumored, buys RIM, and fuses the highly efficient RIM OS with Windows mobile to create the top mobile OS.

Think it won't happen? Look at PCs. What do they cost now? Peanuts...less than smartphones in some cases. Still running Windows aren't they? Much cheaper than Macs as well. So there is no way that the cost of Windows mobile will be a significant factor in Smartphone cost.

Steve | Oct 24, 2008 | 1:53PM

I agree with David B. - the iPhone simply won't get 85% market - may be 30%, may be. It may have a slick SDK, but it also has to be (i) cheap enough to be a commodity (something Apple tries to avoid, though their foray with the iPod might have changed that), and (ii) in enough quantity for most people to get one.

Now, given that follow that up with how divergent the mobile phone space is, they are not likely to take as far as the iPod in the MP3 player market. In part, because the MP3 player market was still searching for a dominant player when the iPod hit; there was no real standard until Apple set it. That's not the case in the mobile phone market.

So you have a lot of phone makers that are pretty respected and well known (unlike how the MP3 player market was). Most of them are going to settle for Android because of the ease of getting it - no tax to Microsoft, and Apple won't let them have their version of OSX for the iPhone either, so they have to get on board with something. Some will settle for Symbian, or PalmOS (also now open source, and also dieing); but the majority are likely to go for the feature-complete Android platform since it directly competes with the iPhone.

So Apple's iPhone is likely to take the 10% market; while Android takes the 85%, and someone else with the the 5% share (to use your numbers). However, I think those numbers are likely off for the mobile phone market - more likely a 70-75% market for Android, with 20-25% for iPhone, and %5 for someone else. Oh, and it'll seem like iPhone has the 85% - but only because they'll likely have the larget market share of any single vendor.

TemporalBeing | Oct 24, 2008 | 2:22PM

Having developed commercial shrink wrap for almost very platform know to mankind some observations..

J2ME is *the* mobile application platform. Lots of problems, but it won the war.

Symbian has problems but in Europe, which actually has a mobile software development industry, unlike the US, it is the dominant platform for non-JSME products. Wont change anytime soon. Nokia will make sure of that.

Mobile Windows, a.k.a WinCE is the absolute worse platform / dev environment I have seen in last 25 years. And that includes the Sega Genesis... Its true awfulness can not be described. Which is why the clueless and those payed by Microsoft are the only ones who develop for it.

IPhone? You got to be joking. ObjectiveC is pure clunk (archaic language with really scary compiler bugs) and Cocoa makes Win95J look both stable and well designed. Los of flashy screen candy thought. Pure Jobs RDF territory.

Android is interesting but I dont see it breaking any of the existing entrenched market leaders.

Brew? Who?

PalmOS? Such a sad story. Strangled by MS..

jmc | Oct 24, 2008 | 2:25PM

As Windows Mobile goes so goes Palm. Palm has been losing market share and will continue to loose ground in the smart phone market, unless they abandon Windows Mobile, adopt Android and seek out a few niche areas where they can develop applications that add value.

TJGodel | Oct 24, 2008 | 2:46PM

I'm still not convinced that a mid-pc with an internet and/or wireless phone isn't the way to go for most of us.

Will C. | Oct 24, 2008 | 3:27PM

Bunch of old guys hanging out here evidently. J2ME won the war? It hasn't even been fought yet. We don't want smartphones? Really? You guys need to take a look at the kids and what they're doing with their iPod touches to say nothing of the fact that they all want iPhones. They don't share your biases nor care what runs on the desktop. Their phone IS their desktop! I don't know if Apple will win this war but they're winning the application battlefront by a landslide.

It's not you this market will be fought's your kids!

BillH | Oct 24, 2008 | 3:41PM

Bunch of old guys hanging out here evidently. J2ME won the war? It hasn't even been fought yet. We don't want smartphones? Really? You guys need to take a look at the kids and what they're doing with their iPod touches to say nothing of the fact that they all want iPhones. They don't share your biases nor care what runs on the desktop. Their phone IS their desktop! I don't know if Apple will win this war but they're winning the application battlefront by a landslide.

It's not you this market will be fought's your kids!

BillH | Oct 24, 2008 | 3:42PM

A few comments. Interesting analogy. RC is probably correct in saying that the iPhone will play out similarly as the iPod. Heck, the iPhone is an iPod... and a phone, game console and someday your PC. Both the iPod and iPhone are consumer electronics devices. Most people use them all the time and form emotional attachments to them. This plays right into the hands of Apple who goes the extra mile in making sure their devices integrate seamlessly into their consumers lifestyles.

As far as being an "old guy. I must say that I resemble that remark. =)


brindle | Oct 24, 2008 | 4:23PM

I'm not an expert but I've had phones for about 15 years now. Currently I have a blackberry that my job gave to me (utterly useless in my opinion) plus a Nokia 770 that I actually just sold & am planning to replace with a N810.
I think the future of the cell phone is to be a small USB dongle that is intended to live in your pocket and work mostly via bluetooth.
With that you can use whatever laptop / palmtop / netbook / desktop you want for whatever purpose you want: VOIP, surfing, SMS, etc. For example, a $20 SMS chat machine that works via bluetooth would be a killer machine, and when the teenager is at home he/she could connect to the PC instead & it would work for free. The cellular dongle itself would charge via USB on a weekly basis & might have a little keypad for dialing calls on, most people I know have no use for the smartphone stuff but if they cared to would do it cheaper with a bluetooth computer of whatever form factor. The bluetooth headsets are a good idea that won't go away.
Whatever wins, you can bet it is going to be the cheapest solution and probably has nothing to do with "operating system". I know that devices usually tend to converge, but for cell phones I predict the opposite & point at the bluetooth headset & GPS for proof. Nobody wants to get locked into proprietary anything.

Grunchy | Oct 24, 2008 | 4:27PM

The old saying was "all software evolves until it does email." I could see a universal Android support appearing where any desktop could share app space with the phone's apps and a machine with mic/speakers could become a substitue for your phone, sort of like a webmail client lets you reach your mail server from whereever.
Insofar as "the phone IS their desktop" nonsense is true, at that point users could switch from the minimal app usability of the phone to any desktop to get something substantial done, and if need be they could go from the good phone function to a Skype-like web client. (The value of the latter would be universal phone access regardless of cell coverage, shared phone books and call history, etc.)

Cris E | Oct 24, 2008 | 5:40PM

Maybe if microsoft goes back to naming windows mobile "stinger" they will have a shot with young people.

CVOS the man | Oct 24, 2008 | 5:47PM

I'm not sure 80-15-5 is a good model as iPod only has 65% - 70% of the media player market. But it's not hard to imagine Apple with 45% or so of the market and anybody who says that Apple can't do that has to have their head examined.

R&D is going crazy within Apple on the iPhone platform. Just imagine a feature like voice enabled calling and all of a sudden the ipod mini and shuffle form factors become more viable as phone / sms / iPod devices.

Add to that, being able to choose your carrier and a much larger presence in the market is not such a stretch.

Android and Symbian will still be big players no matter what but Windows Mobile & RIM seem to be the biggest question marks. Of course, Microsoft could buy RIM and we'd have 4 big players.

necniv | Oct 24, 2008 | 6:01PM

I could see in 10 years, a handset being the main computer for most folks. At home, it'll wirelessly connect to a smart tv or monitor and work with full size wireless keyboards/accessories. And with the way virtualization is going, it'll most likely let you run whatever OS you want, as easy as you change skins on apps now. Probably won't be too difficult to run apps written for one OS on another, either.

Gilmoure | Oct 24, 2008 | 6:47PM

Some of these responses are a riot!

In 15 months the iPhone has become the number one smart phone in the US market. Windows mobile shipped a little bit more than 18 million licenses in fiscal 2008, the iPhone a bit over 10 million despite being unavailable for purchase about a month prior to the iPhone 3g launch. So the iPhone should finish out the year (calendar 2008) selling 17 million or more phones even in a flailing economy.

People did hear the iPhone outsold all the Blackberry flavors this last quarter (6.9 million vs 6.1 million). I'm certain the iPhone will outsell Windows Mobile licenses in 2009 even with 55 hardware vendors.

As pointed out, most consumers don't know or care what OS is on their phone. Why would handset makers choose Windows Mobile? It costs them $/phone! They would choose a "free" mobile OS.

Why would hardware producers pick Symbian and help make Nokia's OS of choice the #1 OS in the market, thus attracting more developers? No, if handset makers don't produce their own OS they will choose Linux or Android and it will probably be Android. Critical mass --> attract more developers --> more and better applications --> attract more customers.

I'm sure Verizon feels real good not having the iPhone right about now. How many millions of new customers did AT&T acquire due to the iPhone and they had to come from somewhere. I just don't see exclusive content fixing that. Face it they are becoming big fat mobile data pipes.

It's funny some are applying the same PC story/logic to the iPhone. iPhone is "closed" and therefore doomed to fail as the Macintosh "has failed" against Windows. They seem to quickly dismiss the iPod, which was not the first MP3 player, was/is seen as "closed" and "more expensive" player and still has north of 70% share of the US market! Now one has come close in the States to competing. Obviously, people are not buying iPod because it makes them stand out in a crowd as some many posters seem to think. Most people are not buying iPhones to "stand out in a crowd", they are buying it because the iPhone stands above the rest of the smart phones available in the US.

We could argue all day whether the iPhone sales will continue to explode, flatten or peak and crash. That isn't really what Cringely is saying.

Windows Mobile is Doomed.

Android is free and will have enough if not more handset makers shipping "Android phones" by the time the next Windows Mobile hits the market. If its the same old OS prettied up, then it has failed, if it is significantly new, t will have few applications when it launches.

Funny comment, MS could afford to pay vendors to put Windows mobile on their handsets. That's a sound business plan, I guess MS would make it up in volume ha ha ha.

argosy | Oct 24, 2008 | 6:56PM

I think the 85 will lean in favor of android - the main reason being hardware choices. If I want an ultra-slim lightweight flip-phone, it can be Android. If I want a big 'ole ultra hi-res touch screen with on-screen keyboard and a 128gb ssd and giant battery for all my mobile media needs, it can be Android. As a developer, I can write an app that will work on either of these.

Apple can do this, but its not their style. Sure, they might offer an iPhone nano, and continue to push up the specs on their main line, but you're going to be limited to maybe 5 options, total, while the Android phone options will number in the 100s. And not new hardware will come out every week, instead of every few months.

Sure, the Android phones will be less of an integrated fully-engineered experience, but then what's a Wintel box? I predict the same thing happens in the smartphone market. A vast array of hardware options, and it never works as well, but it works almost as well, and is far cheaper. Maybe people have learned that lesson when purchasing consumer electronics, but I doubt it.

notorious | Oct 24, 2008 | 7:37PM

samsung's hot (korean only) "haptic 2" phone sells for $700, they seem to be planning more of them too

anonnnnnny | Oct 24, 2008 | 10:45PM

The simplification of three competing standards in any tech-marketplace is too broad a stroke. It makes for good article fodder, but isn't true.

And with vehicles, there are five standard consumer vehicle categories, at least in North America:

- cars

- trucks

- minivans

- SUVs

- motorcycles

Each category is large enough and stands out from the others and has essential features not found in any of the others.

Jerry | Oct 25, 2008 | 12:57AM

The underlying assumption is the mobile smartphone market is homogeneous. From my view in the cheap seats, it is more segmented, especially corporate vs non-corporate use cases. Nearly every Fortune 500 company out there uses an Exchange email back end, and given Microsoft's push in to the mobile market, has made it much easier and cheaper to implement low cost, corporate email delivery to smartphones, the iPhone included. In this particular market segment for smartphones, it seems plausible that the division in 2011 would be 85 iPhone, 10 Windows Mobile, 5 RIM.

pilot | Oct 25, 2008 | 1:42AM

You're making a big jump there from 'Samsung won't make any more Windows Mobile phones' to Windows mobile is dead.

The mobiles with the greatest number of features in the market today outside of the US are made by HTC and HP and run Windows mobile. The iPhone might have captured everyone's imagination at the moment, but it's still playing catchup feature-wise on those two. If the iPaq range moved from Windows mobile or HTC stopped making Windows mobile phones then they might have more to worry about. (the latter have now made an Android model, so that's slightly more likely).
If Apple open up their application deployment model and fix their 3G coverage then they might have something eventually, but they aren't there yet, despite what the legions of fans might have you believe.

More to the point, Windows mobile is still the standard for business use, and until Exchange stops being the industry mail client of choice, it's going to stay that way.

Alan | Oct 25, 2008 | 2:28AM

Brilliant perception!

Just as Bill wanted the Desktop, then the Internet,
Steve wants the Media.

To do this he MUST be the 85%.

He will drive hardware costs down until he does.

Phone hardware is already available mostly in silicon. With control of the core(s) and graphics chips, he has all the bits he needs AND a big fence to keep out the dogs.

dizm | Oct 25, 2008 | 5:32AM

Regarding Windows Mobile's advantages in the market:

RIM is doing far better with respect to access to corporate e-mail. Windows Mobile is not even close. The iPhone does poorly here, although is so popular that it will certainly make up ground now that it has push e-mail. I predict it will overtake Windows Mobile in about two years, but RIM will maintain dominance in this market for awhile.

Windows Mobile has "more features" than competitors on paper, but in practice it's so hard to use that most of them are ignored. The most approachable smartphone, the phone where people actually make significant use of the "smart" features, is the iPhone ... and nothing else even comes close. It's easily (easily!) the best phone for browsing and developers have taken to it like a fish to water.

I recall the first time I used an iPhone. First it was "Cool!" Then, a few minutes later, it made me angry. Microsoft in particular had it's WinCE product out since 1997, ten years before the iPhone. It went through five major revisions before the iPhone hit the scene. Even so it is still balky to use -- it's pretty much the traditional Windows UI scaled down to the microscopic level. You have to squint and poke at it with the stylus. Awful! Worse, the first time I used one it took me a remarkable amount of time just to figure out how to dial the phone, a primary feature in a phone if you ask me. How could Microsoft not have missed the fact that this was so? How could Apple, on its very first try, hit it so perfectly? Microsoft was too afraid of building a different UI, one more closely matched with the type of product it runs on, that they ended up with a terrible product. Apple showed no such fears and built a completely new UI, unlike anything they'd ever done before, and it WORKED.

Unlike Bob I do not think the iPhone will ever hit 85% of the market, not overall. The iPod was pretty special in this respect, the first (and in my mind almost the only) really usable product in the class. It deservedly got the #1 spot, and Apple has leveraged those volumes to keep prices very, very competitive. The iPhone comes into a market already dominated by Symbian and RIM. RIM in particular has proven very usable for the kinds of things businesses want to do. I think Android will supplant it eventually, largely because it will have much broader development, but it will take years for that to happen.

The iPhone is going to have a hard time competing on several fronts: First, Apple won't ever release the software to competitors, and those competitors are going to be able to underprice Apple indefinitely. Second, competitors will come up with decent clones that go a long way towards addressing the issues that make the iPhone look so good today, and this will happen in the short term (such products are already hitting the market now). Third, Apple has necessarily tied itself to single phone companies for the near term. It cannot penetrate as deeply as it otherwise would as a result, and if it can't reach dominance before other alternatives catch up technically then it stands no chance of becoming a de-facto smartphone monopoly. Fourth, Apple's stranglehold on applications will significantly hamper its penetration into business, a significant phone market.

I don't think the cellphone market will follow Bob's 85-10-5 rule; once web browsing works reasonably well everywhere, and the interfaces stop totally sucking, there will be little real-world difference between the platforms. I think the cheap guys are going to split the market between themselves (like they do now) and Apple will remain a premium supplier as it does with PCs. That's not a bad place to be, though.

jim frost

Jim Frost | Oct 25, 2008 | 8:57AM

Is Symbian too old (as claimed in the main article)?

I beg to differ. Of course, I'm biased, but for what it's worth, I seek to refute that particular criticism (and lots more, too) here.

// David Wood, Symbian

David Wood | Oct 25, 2008 | 11:07AM

In order to become the leader in phones, we'd have to find a company that has the ability to stay ahead of the competition, come up with products that users MUST have, and create useful and innovative devices.
Sounds like an impossible task for any comp ... oh ... yeah ... I guess that does sound like Apple.

Chip | Oct 25, 2008 | 11:47AM

I am looking at this web page using a browser.
I do not care overmuch if the browser is ie or firefox or whatever, most of what i do is mediated through a browser.
The same will be true of the phone i will use in 5 years time.

andrew | Oct 25, 2008 | 1:20PM

My wife and I were sitting in an outdoor restaurant a few blocks away from one infinite loop last night. At twilight we noticed a bright light low in the western sky and wondered whether it was an airplane. When it didn't move for a while I said that it was probably Jupiter. My wife stuck with airplane. We ordered desert: molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato. I got out my iPhone and went to the app store. There was a free update for iDicto, my excellent voice recorder app that I highly recommend. At $.99 it is one of the best bargains I have ever seen. I downloaded and installed the update and then searched for astronomy programs. I found that the most highly rated program was Distant Suns with a rave review from Arthur C. Clark for $5.99. OK. I downloaded it, installed it, read the quick start and determined that, yes, it was Jupiter all before desert arrived. All this with the slow old AT&T edge network because free wifi wasn't available and I have the original iPhone, not the 3G. I now carry a life changing ability to tell what is happening in the sky anywhere on earth, any time, in my pocket for $5.99 which is a small multiple of what I would have paid to know whether it really was Jupiter. This is immediate gratification on a scale that was unthinkable a year ago. Who is foolish enough to claim that MS will ever be able to catch up?

Charles Calthrop | Oct 25, 2008 | 2:44PM

I open Opera Mini on my inexpensive HTC P3300 with Windows Mobile. Search in Google for a freeware astronomy software for WinMo and find two or three. Choose one, download the CAB from the author webpage, an it automatically installs itself. Then I chek it was Jupiter, and haven't spent the same money in software than I was about to spend in the dinner.

Marcos | Oct 25, 2008 | 6:51PM

Marcos, did you select the arm version, the mips version, or what? When I used to use WinCE, it drove me crazy that most programs were only compiled for one processor architecture. Also, I usually couldn't find a .cab, I had to download a .exe which required that I run it on a Windows computer with ActiveSync installed. What a ridiculous mess. And then there were irritations like, no https in the browser, no pptp... Gawd, I'm glad to be out of that swamp.

Rick | Oct 25, 2008 | 7:44PM

The Mini-Windows variants are doomed. I see it every day (I work in a phone store.). Difficult interface, slows devices down terribly, no cachet. Their return rate is huge and development is glacial. Boat has sailed.

Symbian. European, Asian, no NA penetration whatsoever and little developer interest. Unless something remarkable happens will be a footnote in phone history in a year or two.

RIM's Blackberry - huge expanding market penetration in NA & slowly growing in Europe & Asia. Really does have push email, all-day smartphones, some serious R&D chops. If their move to multiple cores pays off they'll be sitting pretty, just need to amp up their developer support (they're starting to.)

iPhone - brilliant kit, amazing ecosystem, some developers sitting pretty & other spitting nails in frustration. The artificial limitations are starting to chafe heavily, as is the heavy-handed market management.

Android - the Phoenix BIOS of cellphones. This year Google/HTC/T-Mobile, next year Happy-Lucky-Factory-#14 churning 'em out. Sans the fantastic MacOS frameworks & core services, but has the raw energy of open source behind it, as well as the low overhead.

Where do I see the market headed?

Trash phones - elders, poor, little kids, technophobes.

Smartphones - the standard for anyone middle class or more, 50 years old or younger.

What will they be running? In smartphones it'll be Blackberry/iPhone/Android. BB will continue to hold the business end with their security certifications & corp. datacenter penetration the others only dream of. iPhone will remain the sleek sophisticated limited-range series, probably shading into more entertainment products. Like kudzu Android will be bsily messily mutating into all sorts of niches & variations, vertical, horizontal, home control systems/picture frames/GPS units etc.

Maggard | Oct 26, 2008 | 3:54AM

1.)The real revolution in mobile phone use will happen when users will no longer be "locked in" and be able to change services on a whim.

2.)In five years, there's going to be two or three types of phones out there - getting the most press will be the "Porsches" and the "Volkswagens". The "Porsche" phones will be awesomely cool, very pricey, but use both proprietary hardware and software and have enough rich features to inspire envy and loyalty lock-in. This will still be Apple and to a lesser degree, Palm. The "Volkswagen" phones will be intuitive, cheap as dirt, use FOSS, will be ubiquitous, easy to customize and maintain, not locked into any hardware or service and taken for granted by most everybody. Android and Symbian may well be dominant workhorses amongst these phones, any other proprietary OSes will be on life-support or dead(who knows, we might get a real twisted version of The Cathedral and The Bazaar regarding smartphones that use FOSS, someone might even port the Haiku OS to smartphones, and enough developers might actually take a shine to it for its popularity to blossom - but entertaining that notion at this point is bordering on science fiction). Research In Motion's products definitely fit the profile of the third type, the "Mercedes-Benz", that is Daimler-Benz era, not Daimler-Chrysler.

3.)In ten years, as apps and content move off the user hard drive and onto the distant storage devices of the "cloud", people (a half generation of new users?) will be searching for the best internet "cloud" experience, since the majority of desktops will have become dumb terminals, laptops will have been replaced by glass tablets and mobile devices. Even the browser will be "invisible" to the user or may be replaced by a brand new interface for cloud computing. I wouldn't worry about Apple, they will be probably still be knocking out "Porsche" electronic devices to their loyal dedicated fan base, but probably out of personal computing business as we know it (in fact, the PC business may well be supplanted by tablets and mobile devices).

Kevin Kunreuther | Oct 26, 2008 | 7:37AM

Mobile phones are complex devices and businesses:
They bring together hardware and software and require retail distribution plus application distribution.

In the PC world there was IBM-PC/MSDos, Apple Mac and CP/M. MSDos won the battle.
Now there are way too many mobile operating environments.

On the hardware side Samsung is the leader: they produce form the chips and deliver finished phones to shops. Thus they control 100% their channel.

On the application side Apple has probably the lead: Appstore and iTunes.

Nokia has a bit of everything: making the phones using third party chips and Symbian, but missing out on the applications.
But they are leading in the number of phones sold. twice as much as Samsung.

Google has now to learn how to sell hardware into retail stores, something quite different from selling a web service to businesses (AdSense). Microsoft learned about the difference between software in retail and hardware in retail the hard way: XBox360 A company with experience in retail.

The mobile phone market will be decided by the decisions of Nokia and Samsung.
In the eighties JVC proved that the best (engineered) product is not the winner in retail sales.

Engago Team | Oct 27, 2008 | 10:02AM

When are we going to see docking stations for our smart phones? I'd be nice to be able to plug my cell phone into a monitor, keyboard and mouse. If I'm just reading The Pulpit, do I really need a 5-Gigahertz processor?

Alex Birch | Oct 27, 2008 | 12:44PM

I think you're wrong. The phone of the future will be a desktop replacement, with connectivity for a mouse, keyboard, monitor and speakers. This phone will probably run Ubuntu or a derivative, and also have xp in a VM for games. Moore's law makes this phone possible now, and some Android hardware might even be capable of it.

I want my phone to have all my movies, music, pictures, files, and bookmarks, and I want it to hook up to any wifi anywhere and give me skype video calls, and also do everything the iPhone does, and everything my Ubuntu desktop does. Somebody will join the fray and deliver this, and the iphone et al will die, quickly and painfully.

rhY | Oct 27, 2008 | 2:54PM

If you are saying 85-10-5 with iPhone, Android and the Rest in that order, I think you are taking only US into consideration. The rest of the world will never be able to afford iPhone.

Check the utter failure of iPhone in India (which is one of the upcoming mobile manufacturer's haven)

And have you used Symbian OS 9.3 or 9.4? On what basis are you telling it's getting slower and slower?

sandy | Oct 28, 2008 | 2:41AM

Interesting read. I agree Win Mob has difficult times ahead (at best) but I'm sceptical about the rest. I guess we'll see.
First off, I don't think Samsung has any notable market share (of mobile phones) in Japan so I'm not sure why they'd consider it an important market. Certainly none of the Samsung Symbian OS phones sell in Japan, they are all for other markets. The Japanese mobile phone market is dominated by Japanese manufacturers (Sharp, Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic etc.)
Also I'd disagree that Symbian OS is getting slower. Even with the S60 UI on top it's still pretty snappy on recent models and that's typically on lower-spec hardware than what most WinMob or iPhones have.

James | Oct 28, 2008 | 10:02AM

85% market share for iPhone is a *completely* absurd suggestion, when you actually consider the entire mobile market across the world??? *Even* iPods do not have this level of market share outside of the US and a few select western countries?

Things you haven't even begun to consider are consumer brand-power, importance of battery efficiency, the complexity of getting a device to work well on 100s of operator/carrier networks, different market dynamics/business models, differentiation for consumer segments, localization and the sheer economy-of-scale and distribution networks of iPhone's competitors.

Bruce | Oct 28, 2008 | 11:04AM

85% market share for iPhone is a *completely* absurd suggestion, when you actually consider the entire mobile market across the world??? *Even* iPods do not have this level of market share outside of the US and a few select western countries?

Things you haven't even begun to consider are consumer brand-power, importance of battery efficiency, the complexity of getting a device to work well on 100s of operator/carrier networks, different market dynamics/business models, differentiation for consumer segments, localization and the sheer economy-of-scale and distribution networks of iPhone's competitors.

Bruce | Oct 28, 2008 | 11:06AM

Bruce: I'm not saying 85% for iPhone is a solid prediction, but I bet you're a nerd as I am - we're always looking at the details and what can go wrong. So, for example, you can see that it would be absurd that a flakey GUI shell over MS-DOS could end up with >90% marketshare world-wide... Think of all the different languages, the cultures, the legal and IP regimes. And making it work on hardware from 100's of vendors, differentiation for consumer segments, etc. etc. Ridiculous! ;-) Or to ask it another way: When it came out, what market share did you predict the iPod would capture?

spike0xff | Oct 28, 2008 | 6:20PM

I think that Google has another plan.
o3b is supposed to get data access to the remote parts of developing world, so that Android running on cheap phones allows the developing world to leap frog the personal PC by running Google apps offline and do their computing on their mobile device.
o3b stands for "other 3 billion" it is likely this is the market they hope to grab and in the process completely overwhelm Microsoft in the personal computing market - how about Google 85%, Apple 10% MS 5% of the global market by 2015 in personal computing?

Ed Underwood | Oct 28, 2008 | 11:50PM


ed | Oct 29, 2008 | 4:30AM

Bob is right. Today's Wall Street Journal has article about Motorola reducing the number of platform they support on their phones. It's doesn't mention Windows Mobile being dumped, but Google Android will be the main platform. Here are some quotes from the article titled, "Motorola Speed Dials Cell Overhaul" -

"Unlike rival Nokia Corp., which uses just two operating systems for most of its handset designs, Motorola has relied on more than a half dozen operating systems."......

"It is also looking to outsource production of at least some Windows Mobile phones, these people said.".....

"Motorola isn't expected to deliver an Android-based phone until next year, according to people familiar with the matter. Indeed, its decision to opt for Android as its main platform means Motorola will be playing catch-up with manufacturers such as HTC Corp. of Taiwan, whose G1 phone went on sale this month from T-Mobile USA Inc."

I believe outsourcing the Windows Mobile will be an easy means to kill the line eventually.

TJGodel | Oct 29, 2008 | 9:43AM

Geeks don't "get" apple. They think a product is better because it has more features, a better SDK, or more openness. That is true only for targeting geek shoppers. The geek market is small compared to the general consumer market.

Apple is a consumer electronics company. Ipod won the music market because of ease of use and design coolness. It won despite the fact that you could get 100 different clones that were cheaper and added FM tuners, voice recorders, etc, etc... The ipod advantage was software, both on the device and the computer-based store. That software advantage has kept competitors at bay. Based upon how long major vendors take to release new products, apple is probably 3-5 years ahead.

Now for iphone. Just like for music players, there will always be 100's of devices that are better in terms of geek criteria. Geek shoppers will fragment that market so nobody will have much share. But apple has the opportunity to clean up by appealing to the much larger consumer audience. Just like in music players, apple's advantage in ease of use and design attractiveness puts them years ahead. And no, bolting on a touch screen and some icons does not equal well-designed software.

Bob is exaggerating as usual predicting apple will get 80% share. Other readers pointed out the obvious -- that phone-only devices will have most of the share for years to come. But Bob is right that iphone is game changing. PC's are giving way to laptops, and now laptops are giving way to handhelds. And very small gains in share are very profitable to apple. They make money on the hardware, software, phone plans, music, games utilities, ring tones, etc, etc... No other vendor has all those revenue streams.

As long as apple continues executing they could be unstoppable.

mkkby | Oct 29, 2008 | 6:31PM

What Google has done is just as IBM had done for PC in 80's. Android will consolidate most of the cell phone OS, except one - Apple in the coming years. Then magic tri-number of Android/iPhone/others will be the 85/10/5.

Steve | Oct 30, 2008 | 12:13AM

What Google has done for cellphone is just as IBM had done for PC in 80's. Android will consolidate most of the cell phone OS, except one - Apple in the coming years. Then magic tri-number of Android/iPhone/others will be the 85/10/5.

Steve | Oct 30, 2008 | 12:14AM

Thank you Bob.
Some thoughts:
1. Proprietary OS ( aka closed ) from Nokia, Samsung and others are a requirement from Telco providers and will prevail for a loing time.
2. Apple set the market standards for smartphones.
3. Nokia is just one member out of many in the consortium involving in LTE/LTE-A. There are no secrets here and no first-to-market advantage except for those who buy the best startup.
Cheap,yet feature rich smartphones could be
When the gorillas turn into cats ( as in cat fight ),paying the extra buck to Microsoft as opposed to free OS will make the difference.
4. Telco providers will be more than happy to add more smartphones to their network, even more so if they are cheap enough to avoid subsidies.
5. I wonder what will be Nokia's strategy following Samsung's regarding smartphones. 800$+ for N96?! it's a joke!

OOPS ! I forgot all about Windows Mobile !

Moish | Oct 30, 2008 | 5:16AM

Ah, the classic column predicting the demise of Windows Mobile. I wish I had a dollar for everytime I have heard this prediction over the past 8 years.

Bob -- better do more fact checking in the future. Latest numbers are that Windows Mobile devices outsold iPhone 11:1 in the last reporting quarter. And that includes the growth rate that the iPhone is experiencing.

Imagine what would happen if Microsoft actually promoted the platform...which they might decide to do if their numbers started to go south.

Sorry Bob. There will not be a low cost iPhone just like there never was a low cost Mac. You still don't seem to understand Apple's mentality they do not consider themselves to be an OS company -- they consider themselves a hardware company. As long as this is the case, they will not license the OS to anyone. Without other manufacturers with other smartphone devices running OS X, it will not gain in marketshare.

delta force | Oct 30, 2008 | 2:25PM

The very last sentence has a typo:

There way things are headed now...

Should be:

*The* way things are headed now...

anthonyf | Oct 30, 2008 | 5:15PM

I think that Bob has his prediction spot on; generally, his idea is that in the marketplace a product which is
1. either best in features and customer usability (iPhone) wins
2. a product with best price wins (free Android)
3. All others are not needed and will slowly disappear

We don't know exact market shares for those; though, interestingly, its quite close to browser shares - IE, Fifefox, Safari/Opera; and the market is probably not an emerging one like India, but a mature one, and Indian market will mature soon (in terms of services, not quantity); those shares will fluctuate anyway so its not so important anyway.

But the main point is of course spelled clearly. Since no one wants to pay, Android will be first choice for all except Apple; they will do great with their own OS X on iPhones and have enough share to prosper, be it 85 or 10; even 10% actually is huge market.

There is no place for WinMo, and no, cellphones are HARDLY a continuation of desktops; indeed, no one would like to mess with desktops to get functionality from cell phones. Thats why Apple is moving away from using desktops for iPhones; its incoming firmware will allow for example a direct download of podcasts; even now, generally speaking, its a small computer on itself.

Evolution of iPhone will lead to iPhone mini and iPhone shuffle, so to speak, as well as iPhone Maxi/Apple tablet - a natural continuation of line and need to have all price points dictates this. I think we will see cheaper iPhones as soon as Android will result in cheaper smartphones. iPhone revolution is just beginning. With development of wifi and 3G iPhones will be the preferred choice just as iPods did to mp3 market due to its usability and customer friendliness, thing which cannot be overestimated for consumer electronics. WinMo will never be popular in emerging markets due to its price and cost; Android may win there. So you have iPhone dominating mature developed markets and Android dominating emerging markets. Together they will crush any WinMo device as well as RIM and so on.

Hash | Nov 01, 2008 | 4:56PM

Wow, Triumph of the Nerds again?... So do you really predict that Steve Jobs will beat them all on the mobile platform market?...

As a Mac fangirl (should I say "cult member"?) and obviously a proud owner of an iPhone (and at least 4 Macs...), I wonder, though, if the iPhone will "dominate the market" in 2011 with 85% market share — it sounds almost impossible, given that I actually see the same thing happening as on the desktop: a handful of alternatives that run on all "mobile hardware" — Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, etc. — and one single alternative locked to a single hardware solution, Apple's iPhone. If history repeats itself, the "mobile OS running on multiple platforms" will dominate the market, leaving behind the "mobile OS running on a single platform". In that case, the choice will be between Microsoft and Google, and I'd hate to bet on either. Both platforms look positively outdated, clunky, and unusually user-unfriendly — put into other words, they are good for developers, probably even better for mobile hardware vendors (which can pick between a free platform or a paid one), even if they're terrible for end-users. Still, as the desktop OS wars showed, at the end of the day, Microsoft won the battle "proving" that their OS is what users want.

When the iPhone 3G was launched in all of Europe, mobile operators — the other players in the field, it's not just users & hardware manufacturers — simply hate it. They shrugged off the "15 million iPhones sold in a year" by claiming that just Nokia phones, in the same timeframe, sold 150 million phones — and of course Nokia is just "one of many" manufacturers. They also hate the idea that their customer support has to teach their customers how to use iTunes (you really can't use the iPhone without it, as Apple obviously knows very well). They even hate more the idea that the notion of "service" starts to get pushed outside their own websites (e.g., distributing useful applications) and into Apple's own hands (since Apple has a *way* better solution — again, from the point of view of the end-user). And they probably fear that Apple will relegate mobile operators to just "infrastructure providers", as Jobs claims. With iTunes, he's breaking the backbone of "music distributors" (he wants to connect artists directly to users — through Apple's own infrastructure). With mobile applications — which, on a iPhone, are just "cool computer applications" which happen to be able to use mobile infrastructure as well — Jobs wants to put software developers directly in touch with end-users, easily and without any fuss. All iPhone users have, through the same interface (either through iTunes or through the iPhone), access to *all* iPhone applications, *anywhere*, immediately. And that includes instant upgrades, too.

So this is going clearly to cut into *one* big service area for mobile operators, which are not happy. Perhaps they even fear that Jobs is right (he usually is...) and that the way the iPhone works (besides the shiny box in your pocket) is what users want. But not what mobile operators want. Jobs doesn't play by their rules; he only plays by his own rules. His point is well made: if a mobile operator doesn't want to sign an agreement under *his* terms, he'll just pick another one. Users will flock to operators willing to support the iPhone.

That's all very nice — and obviously good for Apple and their stakeholders — but will that lead to market dominance by 2011? I find it very, very hard to believe, even as Apple's fangirl.

No, I agree with "delta force" above. Apple, as usual, infuses the "cult" message with their iPhone. Unlike Android — "a free mobile OS for everybody", Apple's back with their usual marketing: the iPhone is for an elite of users. Special people. Creative people. The ones that don't want to be part of the mediocrity. The elite.

No, I don't believe in an "iPhone Lite" for US$35. Apple's simply not into that business. They'll run ads with "Hi, I'm an iPhone" and explain very carefully why you are special for shelling out US$500 (for an unlocked iPhone...) for a computer-in-your-pocket (which also happens to make phone calls) and why the rest of the world has to endure a non-hippy, old-fashioned, obsolete Plain Old Mobile Phone, even if it costs just US$35...

That'll give Apple a 5-10% market share, with perhaps 150-300 million iPhones worldwide. Not bad, of course, but definitely not world domination by the nerds.

We simply aren't enough :)

Gwyneth Llewelyn | Nov 06, 2008 | 9:12PM

There are rumors of a Zune phone. Sign me up for that! I think Windows Mobile still has many advantages over some of the newer devices and it is proven technology, very widely accepted, and most importantly there are many many people developing and sharing applications for it.

Chris | Dec 26, 2008 | 6:44PM

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