Battle of the mobile tech giants

  • Approximately 480 million smartphones and tablets were shipped in 2011, as opposed to 380 million desktop and PCs
  • RIM still faltering, Google and Samsung pose a challenge, Apple looks set to rule for a while more

Battle of the mobile tech giantsBattle of the mobile tech giantsMOBILE platforms are hitting critical mass across smartphones and tablets. Globally in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010, smartphone and tablet shipments exceeded desktop and PC shipments. In 2011, it is estimated that approximately 480 million smartphones and tablets were shipped as opposed to approximately 380 million desktop and PCs.

As the mobility trend heats up, we see the mobile tech giants battle it out to try and gain more market share in the industry.

Research in Motion (RIM)

The rollout of the BB10 came too little, too late in the day for RIM and the delay of devices will hurt it further. The company has been battered by hyper competition from Google, Apple and Microsoft, as well as some questionable competitive decisions it has made over the last few years.

At this rate, RIM may not survive intact as a company for very long. Some hard decisions have to be taken very soon. The dismal quarterly performance from RIM is only expected to worsen.

RIM needs three basic things to turn the company around:

  1. Completely revamped mobile devices -- both hardware and OS that can trump the competition;
  2. Developer and partner support (which has been waning as of late) to develop new and exciting applications for the BB10; and
  3. Customer confidence and interest -- which has also waned considerably after RIM consistently failed to keep up with superior products from the competition.

These are big things to ask for and are very difficult to accomplish at present; the odds are stacked against the company, going by past history of how big tech companies can sink quickly.

In the beginning, RIM relied much on its business model of secure messaging and voice services as well as its iconic keyboard centric design. In the latter stages, it failed to innovate quickly enough when it became obvious the trend was clearly towards touch devices and large app stores.

In the end, only a few developers still support the RIM platform because there are very few users in the RIM ecosystem (as compared to Apple or Google), as those few users directly affect how lucrative the market is for paid apps by the developers.

Positive news for the industry and for consumers, the Google Nexus 7 will bring another major player to the low-end (US$150-200) tablet market after Amazon with its Kindle Fire.

This will increase awareness and provide direction for other Android manufacturers to follow – which is what Google itself has done by launching cutting-edge mobile devices with every iteration of its Android OS.

This may even push companies such as Apple to launch a smaller iPad, (something the company has not done yet ) since the demand is clearly there. However, Google's track record with hardware is untested, and it remains to be seen if Google will enter into direct competition with its hardware partners or find a way to keep them happy.
Samsung vs Apple

With the Samsung Galaxy Nexus banned in the United States, consumers are losing out as it hampers competition and innovation. The patent wars between Apple and Samsung have gone on for a while now and have assumed ridiculous proportions.

For Apple this is a fight for survival and profitability since Samsung is quite capable of flooding the worldwide market with quality alternatives to the iPad, that too at varying price points - something Apple has yet to do.

Samsung has already done this quite successfully if you take a look at the sales of its Galaxy SII smartphone and Galaxy tablet devices. This is expected to continue for some time if there is no intervention from government or regulatory authorities [such as the recent verdict against Samsung].

What this brings into question is the legality of seemingly generic patents that have been filed by all manufacturers over the years, and not just Apple, something that does not look like it will get settled soon.
Apple iOS 6

Apple unveiled the new iOS 6 at the WWDC on June 11 2012. It packs in over 200 new features and will support iPhone 3GS, 4G and 4S, new iPad and the 4th generation iPod Touch.

Siri can now provide sports information, collate restaurant information and even make a reservation at your favorite restaurant. Siri can launch apps, let you tweet by voice and will support over nine languages.

Traditionally a large percentage of mobile Internet usage globally happens through iOS devices and the emergence of Siri as a search engine can take away a huge chunk of searches from Google's hands.

Now that the new iPad can run Siri too, this further increases the possibility of a churn from Google to Siri.

The launch of Apple's own Map services has resulted in Google Maps no longer being supported in the advanced iOS devices; this poses a huge risk to Google's primary business-advertisements.

Today, the focus is on providing location-based information and localized information to end-users regarding the various points of interest. Maps and Siri together can take off a significant portion of the mobile advertisement revenues from Google's coffers.

iOS 6 will also offer native support for Facebook, a long anticipated and a highly welcome move. Users can now use Siri to post status, share photos, links, maps, iTunes, synchronize events and birthdays with the calendar, etc. Photo stream will also allow end-users to share photos with family and friends.

As a whole, iOS 6 has the ability to lock users and the people around them into the Apple ecosystem to stay connected seamlessly. Seamless social media connectivity is on a priority across the competition and Android has tried to do it right with its latest release, Jelly Bean.

The Passbook application will integrate all passes/ tickets and coupons/ vouchers into a single place. The phone can now dish out the relevant pass to the end-user based on his or her location. This provides retailers the opportunity to provide loyalty coupons and discount vouchers to end-users easily.

This is likely to be a precursor to an Apple Mobile wallet and earlier this year, the media was rife with news that Apple was patenting a new mobile wallet technology.

Traditionally, Apple has been very successful in making end-users pay for services usage which was demonstrated by the example of iStore. Replicating a similar success in the mobile wallet space will pose a threat to Google and NFC-related (Near Field Communication) payment vendors/ applications like Samsung, Nokia and Isis.

The future of communication revolves around the three pillars - Local, Social and Mobile. Apple seems to be targeting all three with the iOS 6. This update looks like a move by Apple to make further inroads into the mobility space and emerge as the numero uno device vendor once again.

This article was authored by Pranabesh Nath (left in the pictures above), Research Manager, Enterprise Communications & Contact Centers, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific; and Abhishek Chauhan (right), Senior Consultant, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia & Middle East. It is reprinted with permission.

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