iOS devices at work…who are they up against?

In the previous blog, we talked about RIM as one of the competitors to Apple in the workplace.  Who else is there?  There are mainly three others: Android devices, Windows Phone devices and Nokia Symbian devices.   Of these three, Android is the one most referenced in discussions of the smartphone race.   Android has had an explosive start since being introduced in October 2008 (they actually came onto the scene in July 2005 when Google acquired Android). Android has experienced the largest growth of all mobile devices, taking an immediate 2% share of the smartphone market upon its launch in 2009 and parlaying that into 27% by the end of 2010 (by one research analysts estimates).   Part of Androids appeal is its open-source business model.   The Android operating system is founded on the Linux kernel, was initially developed by the open-source community, is device independent unlike Apple’s iOS and RIMs Blackberry OS and finally, Apps developed for Android devices are unregulated and can be placed in the Android Market at will.   No control gates, unlike those for the App Store (Apple) and Blackberry App World (RIM).  This has been received with mixed reaction.   Developers love it, consumers sometimes love it, companies are undecided.   Reports of ‘buggy’ and occasionally ‘inappropriate’ Apps have been more frequent in the Android world as compared to that of Apple and RIM.   And companies are undecided on the security threat associated with ‘anything’ being allowed in Android Market. Despite this, Androids impressive climb and now dominant position in the marketplace is indisputable.

Now, Windows Phone.   Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 this past October 2010 after earlier announcing it as the successor to Windows Mobile.   Much like Apple iOS devices and Android devices, Windows Phone devices are targeted to the general consumer.   And like Android, Windows Phone is device independent although there are a set of minimum requirements that devices must meet to support the Windows Phone operating system.   One shortcoming is Microsoft was not able to make Windows Phone backward compatible with Windows Mobile due to time pressures resulting from launch delays.  As for Apps, Windows Phone Marketplace is structured more along the lines of the App Store and Blackberry App World.   Third-party developed Apps must go through an approval and verification process and like the App Store model, any Apps sold through Windows Phone Marketplace are subject to a 30% ‘store-front’ fee, the developer taking the remaining 70%.   It’s still too early to make a call on Windows Phone in terms of workplace acceptance. Possibly the recently announced strategic partnership with Nokia will bring clarity to this.

This leads nicely to Nokia’s Symbian mobile operating system.   To many in North America, it would likely come as a surprise that Symbian has a commanding lead in smartphone worldwide marketshare yet this fact seems to garner little mention in local press and business circles.  Why is that? “…to anyone in North America…”.  Symbian is dominant in overseas markets, not North America.   Symbian comes from strong lineage, born in the late 1990s in Europe from a partnership amongst Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Psion to capitalize upon the convergence craze.   Symbian enjoyed massive success out of the gate in Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) and South America (although RIM has recently made impressive inroads in the South American market).  Much like RIM’s North American beginnings in the enterprise space, Nokia’s Symbian mobile operating system has reaped substantial benefits from being first-to-market.  But much like RIM, it has struggled to find ways to compete against new comers like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, seeing its marketshare erode year after year as a result.   And Stephen Elop, the ex-Microsoft senior executive and now CEO of Nokia is not convinced that trend can be reversed.   His recent announcement hitching Nokias wagon to Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile operating system sounded the death knell for Symbian and its much touted open-source successor, MeeGo.  Only months ago, IT industry research firm Gartner proclaimed by 2014 “the worldwide mobile operating system (OS) market will be dominated by Symbian and Android” projecting the two to combine for 60% percent of worldwide mobile OS sales.   Whether “Windows Phone” can now be substituted for “Symbian” in that statement is the big unknown.

At this point in time, its fair to say RIM and Apple are the dominant smart devices in the workplace today.  Android’s impressive rise in the general consumer market positions it as the next true competitor in the workplace and its too early to make a call on Windows Phone or the new entrant Hewlett-Packard and its WebOS.


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