Apple-fresh off of its launch of the iPhone 5-and Google continue to grow their dominance in the mobile marketplace, having positioned themselves to capture as much as 98 percent of mobile device sales by the end of 2012.
That bold prediction comes from financial research firm Global Equities Research, just a day after Apple's flashy Sept. 12 announcement of its refreshed, larger and more feature-filled iPhone 5.
The 98 percent estimate comes from interviews with 15 iOS and Android developers at several mobile technology conferences, said Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry.
"There will not be any third spot left," he said. "Nokia, Microsoft and RIM [Research In Motion] will struggle in the remaining 2 percent of the market."
Interestingly, the latest mobile market share numbers from rival IT research firm IDC show Google and Apple having a combined 85 percent of the global market today, including Android's 68.1 percent share and Apple's 16.9 percent share, according to a Sept. 12 Associated Press story. RIM's BlackBerry has a 4.8 percent share, down from 11.5 percent a year earlier, while Symbian (mostly used by Nokia) holds a 4.4 percent share, down from 16.9 percent a year earlier, according to the AP. Windows Phone holds a 3.5 percent share, up from 2.3 percent a year earlier.
There would have to be a 13 percentage point swing gain for Android and iOS by the end of December for Chowdhry's numbers to happen. His prediction is gutsy, to say the least, but he defends his estimates and his small 15-developer sampling.
"It is not the quantity of people you talk to," said Chowdhry. "In a random sampling of people, when three people in a row say the same thing, you know you have it right." The developer interviews were conducted Sept. 12 at several conferences, including the Intel Developer Forum, where an Android session was being held. "You get the direction right" with only 15 replies, he said.
The 98 percent market prediction was formulated after the developers shared their insights about how they view the marketplace, according to Chowdhry. "Developers will go to the platform where you have devices and you have monetization. If you look at Apple, they have 400 million devices in the market, with more than 400 million user credit card numbers in their system," where developers can make potential sales of their apps.
"What that means for a developer is that they have 400 million people waiting to buy," he said. "That is a critical asset that Apple has. If you go to the Windows market, they don't have 400 million devices or credit card numbers."
The same lucrative market realities exist for Android developers because of the immense popularity of that system, he said. Android is still growing, too, with about 1.2 million new device activations a day.
About 90 percent of app developers today are building their apps for sale in both Android and Apple stores, said Chowdhry. "It says there is so much innovation going on with Apple and Google. These two will win gold and silver for sure and they will win by a huge margin. Microsoft, RIM and Nokia are not dead on arrival. They never departed."
At least one analyst, Dan Maycock of Slalom Consulting, thinks that predictions of Microsoft's imminent death on the mobile market might be a bit hasty.
"I think that the 98 percent prediction is pretty aggressive," said Maycock. "Certainly, it's going to come down to people and their loyalties."
Microsoft "makes money on every Android device that's sold because Google gives them $5 for a Microsoft Exchange license for every device" to license Exchange for use with the platform, said Maycock.
"There is more than 2 percent of the world population that doesn't like Android or Apple," said Maycock. "And Microsoft has too much money, too much entrenchment in the enterprise market and too much to lose to let [a possible 2 percent market share] happen to them. If they have to give away enough devices to get more than 2 percent of the market, they could do it."