I have been thinking a lot about the make-up of the smartphone market. Two important articles I wrote earlier this year:
- Today’s Leaders Are Not Tomorrow’s Winners (with 3% market penetration there’s a long way to go before this battle is over)
- Fighting the Wrong Fight (the battle is between OS companies, the war is with the carriers)
I believe in the next few years three operating systems will dominate the mobile landscape (smartphone, tablet and other mobile devices): Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7. These three operating systems will account for 99% of all sold operating systems.
Android and iOS are obvious to me. Both are strong leaders with lots of momentum. Apple, I believe, will dominate tablets and portable entertainment devices (a la iPod) for reasons not discussed elsewhere. (An article is up-coming on this topic.) Android, because of its “free” nature will be the poster child for carriers worldwide and therefore has the competitive edge to be dominant. Given that, I think the two operating systems will make up 90% of the market and the split in market share will be close to 50-40 with Android leading.
Windows Phone 7 is my wildcard. First I think there is a high probability of Microsoft leveraging its Office/Exchange/Windows/.NET infrastructure here. Even though they aren’t as prevalent in the tech community, there are some huge Windows fanboys that can rival the Apple ones. Most importantly, though, Microsoft can’t give up. They have to be a player in this market or they risk losing their supremacy in operating systems. Given that, I don’t see them as a strong competitor, instead taking a 8-9% market share.
Of course this could all fall apart. Apple could fail to adjust their breadth of product, instead staying only at the high end. (Unlikely, I think, based on their iPod history. See John Gruber’s excellent summary of recent Android v. iOS discussions over at Daring Fireball.) Android could become so fragmented that it is really like all the licensees having their own operating system. Windows Phone 7 could just be too late to play. RIM, Palm and Nokia could all do something drastic in 2011 to stay in the game.
But if I had to bet, I’d take Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7 to win, place and show in the market share game.