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.
I saw an interesting piece on Microsoft trying to woo Apple iOS developers over to Windows Phone. This got me thinking about developer platforms, and how some companies have limited themselves by limiting their development tools. The idea that I’ve been mulling for a while: if you want developers to build for your device, make your tools available to them on the platform they use. What does this mean? If you want iOS developers, you need to make sure your development system is available on OS X. It also applies in other directions.
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?
An article on CNET this morning has a summary of an interview with Nokia’s chairman, Risto Siilasmaa, and apparently despite some statements, there is a “Plan B” around smartphones. Of course, he made the usual positive noises about how they are confident in Windows Phone and such. And the existence of a Plan B isn’t entirely surprising. A company that big typically doesn’t bet the farm in one big push. But what is intriguing is that someone as senior in the organization as the chairman of the board would talk about it. But it also isn’t surprising, because of the nature of partnerships and a company’s relationship with its shareholders.
A piece on Forbes tries to outline why Nokia “had to choose Windows”, the argument being that choosing Android wouldn’t allow them to be a leader or differentiate themselves enough. What worries me, though, is that I’m not sure the author really understands the mobile space. The author closes their piece by implying that Windows 8 should help Nokia with their phones, even though Windows 8 isn’t meant for phones. Microsoft has made it clear how the two operating systems are to be used: Windows Phone 7 is for phones and phone-like devices, Windows 8 is for desktops, servers, notebooks and tablets. If Nokia has a Windows 8 product coming, it will be a tablet. Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 8 on phones.
The latest data from comScore is out (as reported by Apple Insider), and there are several items of note for February 2012. Before discussing the numbers, though, it is useful to remember that these apply to the installed base (based on active subscribers). This isn’t the same as some of the sales numbers that are often quoted, which show percentage of unit sales for some period of time. These numbers refer to active devices in use today.
The news for some smartphone platforms and handset makers was good for 2011. For other key players, it was bad. Basically, Android and iOS were both up. Android apparently dropped a little relative to Q3 2011, but year-over-year they have improved their position. Apple is up both year-over-year and relative to Q3 on strong sales of the iPhone 4S. The 4th quarter is a period where unit sales should be higher for everyone. For 2 key players, even the holiday shopping surge that most companies see didn’t happen. Guess who? Microsoft and RIM. Both saw decreased unit sales, not just marketshare, for the 4th quarter. Again, this happened during a key time in retail sales. Continue reading