Today’s Leaders Are Not Tomorrow’s Winners

Last week in a post I was writing primarily to discuss why Amazon’s pending Android Store and the launch of Windows Phone 7 were good things, I made an off-handed comment that we are currently selling about 200 million smartphone units per year in a six billion unit market (every person on earth). That’s roughly 3% market penetration.

Is that enough to know the eventual winner?

Let’s look at a little history: the personal computer market. Jeremy Reimer put together this excellent web site with data, up to 2005, of desktop and laptop computer sales. In 2005 manufacturers sold 197 million desktop and laptop computers. 3% of that number would take us, roughly, to 1984 when 6.3 million personal computers were sold. In 1984, the leader in the market was the Commodore 64 with 40% market share. The PC operating systems (variants of DOS, I am assuming, although probably predominantly MS-DOS) was second at 32% of the market and at #3 was the Apple II at 16%. Of course NONE of these operating systems are around today and Amiga (who owned the Commodore brand) doesn’t make computers. Windows took over from MS-DOS and Mac OS took over from the Apple II.

In the smartphone space today, Symbian controls 41% of the worldwide market with RIM, Android and iOS all bunched together at 18%, 17% and 14%, respectively ¹.

Like I said last week: anyone who tells you this fight is over is selling you something. Chances are, when the dust settles, not only will the major players change but so will the operating systems we are using.

¹ (Q2, 2010, Gartner)