Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced a new product called the iPhone. After publicly denying Apple was working on a phone, he demonstrated a device that would help to reshape how we view personal computing. The iPhone doesn’t deserve all the credit. Android played a critical part, and was released around the same time. But the world of computing, mobile or otherwise, has a clear boundary in the year 2007.
A recent BBC piece makes some factually incorrect and outlandish claims about the history of the smartphone. It boggles the mind that an otherwise excellent news organization gets this so wrong. It’s the sort of thing you get when a lazy (or stupid?) journalist appears to us a bad Motorola commercial as their source.
Well, Nokia as we knew it is no longer. After selling off the feature phone part of the business, Microsoft is shutting what remains down. It is a sad demise after having once been the biggest mobile phone provider in the world, and one of the first to sell what we would recognize as a “smartphone”. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the missteps along the way.
So, the new Blackberry devices and their new operating system are out. Proponents are expecting it to return RIM to the top of the smartphone heap. The more realistic, however, see this device for what it is: a last gasp attempt for RIM to keep Blackberry relevant in a world that they were a big part of (globally) or virtually owned (in North America). In the areas that matter to consumers, the Z10 and BB10 aren’t “better enough” to matter. Sure, the underpinnings are finally a modern operating system, with modern frameworks and tools. At the end of the day, it’s just another touchscreen minitablet that runs some apps. The details may vary, but the general bits are “more of the same”.
One this has become clear: for about a year now, Android and iOS have commanded the vast majority of the mobile operating system space, at least in smartphones. Together they have made up 85% or more of the mobile space. While their overall gains on the market have slowed, they continue to pile up the installed base and more and more people have chosen them over the “also-rans” of Windows Phone, Blackberry and Bada, and the orphans Symbian, WebOS and Windows Mobile. There are many that are saying “wait, the game is still young” and that other systems will show up to give the top two competition. While obviously you should never say never, I will say that the odds of displacing either iOS, Android or both from the top of the mobile heap are so incredibly long they might as well be zero. As I pointed out in a previous post, the only way to really disrupt them is to change the game. Okay, so why don’t I believe that Blackberry 10, the upgraded Windows Phone, Tizen or the forthcoming Firefox OS will displace the incumbents?
Word is that Amazon is supposedly considering a smartphone for the Kindle lineup. They are apparently lining up suppliers, and building a patent portfolio to try to forestall the usual legal shenanigans. But why would Amazon bother? I’ve always argued that Amazon is a content company first, and any hardware they make is to sell more content. Amazon’s goal here isn’t to take over the hardware market. Their goal is consistent with everything they’ve done: lower the barrier to entry to get at their content.
A great article on All Things D: covers Nokia’s current situation. Things are dire. They have announced more layoffs, on top of those already planned. They are shutting down ancillary research groups, as well as some factories. Their bet on Windows Phone has not worked out, and the Lumia (thought to be the catalyst to jump Windows Phone to the top of the heap) has proven to have made limited impact. Could we be seeing the demise of one of the stalwarts of the mobile industry?