There's Room for More Than Apple, Google in Mobile
One of the regular memes has Apple iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems as the only platforms that matter in mobile.
With some 70 percent of the market combined worldwide, it's an easy case to make. But that's the near-term view.
The long view could paint a different, rosier picture for the platform of Microsoft and, yes, even the embattled Research in Motion. At least, if you believe a new prediction from researcher IDC.
The firm's prediction is that by 2015 more U.S. Internet users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs or other wireline devices.
IDC noted: "As smartphones begin to outsell simpler feature phones, and as media tablet sales explode, the number of mobile Internet users will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.6 percent between 2010 and 2015.
IDC said the target is large: Worldwide, the total number of Internet users will balloon to 2.7 billion in 2015.
That's a massive, addressable market for smartphone and tablet OEMs of all kinds. Surely, there is room for Microsoft, RIM and maybe another player.
Consider that low-cost Android phones are selling for $20 in Asia, but AT&T and Sprint will soon start selling them here in the U.S., lowering the barrier to entry. Microsoft and RIM should do the same.
If RIM and Microsoft take some pages out of Apple's and Android's playbooks, they can gain some of the considerable market share.
Of course, history suggests the mobile computing market could follow the desktop market, where Microsoft Windows suppressed Apple's Mac for years. Android is the new Windows; iPhone is the new Mac.
However...that premise gets blown up, thanks to the Apple's iPad tablet, which defined the market, sold over 30 million units and put the entire market at a competitive disadvantage.
Take IDC's CAGR stat into account, compared with Gartner's finding that PC sales are sputtering:
Media tablets have dramatically changed the dynamic of the PC market ,and HP's decision to rethink its PC strategy simply highlights the pressure that PC vendors are under to adapt to the new dynamic or abandon the market.
Of course, Gartner means the iPad has done all of this. The iPad is synonmous with the phrase "tablet market" because it has probably 80 percent to 90 percent of the total market.
What this means is that there should be plenty of market pie for not only Apple's market-creating iPad, but Android tablets from Amazon, and possibly Samsung, HTC, Motorola and others.
I'm not saying "Honeycomb" tablets will challenge the iPad. I think Honeycomb needs to evolve and become something other, better than it is now: buggy and very crash-prone.
But I refuse to believe the iPad will become the iPod of the tablet market--not with the Android OEMs, RIM's PlayBook and Microsoft Windows 8 slates coming next year.
And I refuse to believe Android and iPhone will be the Coke and Pepsi, or the Windows and Mac of mobile computing. Though it could happen, I'd like to think RIM and Microsoft recognize the potential and will do their best to seize as much of the smartphone pie as possible.
This is what I would like to see for the smartphone market by 2015: Android and iOS at 30 percent apiece, with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and RIM'S QNX phones at 20 percent apiece.
Would that were true in tablets, but I suspect that market will look more like iOS at 60 percent, with Microsoft Windows 8 at 20 percent and Android also at 20 percent by 2016. I don't see the PlayBook going anywhere but the route of the TouchPad at this point.
That's the sort of competitive spirit that will keep millions of people employed and excellent innovation pumping across the mobile-computing sector.
One can dream, anyway. Microsoft and RIM need to execute. I'm pretty sure Microsoft can, but RIM is a few bad phone cycles away from making the smartphone and tablet markets three-horse mobile-platform races between Apple, Android and Microsoft.