In Touch with Users Expectations
Can Android Compete with BlackBerry, Windows Mobile in the Enterprise?
In an announcement that has put Microsoft, Research In Motion, Apple and the many other smartphone makers on notice,
the follow-up to the T-Mobile G1, the first Android-based device, is coming to
store shelves this summer.
Dubbed the myTouch 3G, the device will feature an improved Android operating system, an affordable $199 price tag, and most importantly, it won't have the slide-out keyboard found in the T-Mobile G1. That should help the device fit more easily into pockets and compete on the same level as major players in the market.
Although the T-Mobile G1 is one of the forgotten competitors in the touch-screen smartphone space, it sold well. As of this writing, T-Mobile has sold 1.5 million G1 units. It's not a stellar number that would make Apple worry, but it's a fine showing from a device that's on one of the least-popular carriers' networks. Given the success of the G1, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to expect the myTouch 3G to beat out its predecessor both on features and sales.
If that happens, should RIM and Microsoft be worried? Unlike Palm and Apple, which only sell one smartphone to customers, RIM and Microsoft use their software to sell multiple devices on multiple carriers. It's a strategy that has helped the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile attract a respectable following in the enterprise. Google, through the Open Handset Alliance and its open-source Android platform, is taking aim at both RIM and Microsoft. It doesn't expect Android-based phones to sell as well as the iPhone and it doesn't really care if they don't. Instead, Google is trying to create an operating system that can be on multiple devices from multiple carriers to help solidify itself as the "go-to" platform in the smartphone market.
It could happen. Recent reports have suggested Dell, Nokia, Motorola, Acer, and a slew of other vendors are seriously considering releasing an Android-based phone. Those companies see Android as an appealing alternative to Windows Mobile devices that simply can't compete on any level with highly coveted products in the space. For its part, Google contends that more than 20 Android-based smartphones will be offered to customers by the end of 2009. It's a lofty claim, given it only has one smartphone on store shelves now. But if we consider its software, it's not such an outlandish hope. If companies are trying to get into the smartphone market to compete with Apple in the consumer side or RIM on the enterprise side, Android is simply the best platform to go with.
In Touch with Users Expectations
The most obvious difference between Android OS and Windows Mobile is touch-screen support. And it's a big difference. In today's market, users covet a touch-screen. In fact, they expect it. Right now, that's not even featured in a Windows Mobile device. And although you can get a touch-screen BlackBerry, the problem is, the BlackBerry Storm just isn't all that great. In my experience, it's the worst touch-screen smartphone I've used from any of the big four -- Apple, RIM, Google and Palm.
Although Microsoft is promising big things with Windows Mobile, it might be too little, too late. If Android can attract vendors with its touch-screen support, Windows Mobile could be in trouble. The platform will look like an also-ran. And most companies simply won't find any reason to use it. It's already trailing RIM and now, Windows Mobile could be trailing Android soon.
The biggest issue facing RIM is that its software is only available on a finite number of smartphones. Right now, each major carrier has no more than a handful of BlackBerry devices available to consumers. And although many of those are extremely popular in the enterprise, it could be a problem going forward.
Windows Mobile doesn't have that problem. Because Microsoft sells its software to a variety of vendors, it can capture more market share out of sheer quantity. It helps keep the platform afloat.
But Google's Android platform is using that same strategy. It plans to use its software to attract more companies. And so far, as mentioned above, it's working. Does that mean Google can match Windows Mobile's ubiquity right away? Of course not. But as more vendors see the benefits Android provides over Windows Mobile, it might only be a matter of time before Microsoft loses significant ground to Google.
Apps matter in the smartphone space. Just a few years ago, most companies didn't even consider mobile apps an integral part of their strategy. Today, they could mean the life and death of a platform. And once again, Android wins out.
Although RIM offers some apps in its BlackBerry App World, it doesn't compare on any level with the Android Market. At last count, the BlackBerry App World had a little more than 1,000 apps in its store. Today, the Android Market has more than twice that. And considering some of those apps are designed specifically for business customers, it quickly becomes apparent that if company employees are looking for more out of their phones, they will choose an Android-based device.
The same can be said for Windows Mobile. Although Microsoft is promising an app store, it has yet to deliver. So far, the company is far behind in the app space and it's starting to hurt its platform.
In the end, it's tough to say what will happen in the mobile market. Maybe RIM will beat out the competition in the enterprise space or perhaps Windows Mobile will stage a comeback. But if we judge devices by the features they offer and what most users are looking for in a smartphone today, it might be difficult to call any other OS besides Android the eventual winner. It has all the tools necessary to make it big. Now, we just need to wait and see what happens.