Own the hardware or own the software, or own both? Tough choices.Tthe battle-lines have been drawn and the three major players, Apple, Android and RIM Blackberry are optimizing their paths.
In the top graphic we can see nearly even market share between Android, Apple and RIM, but despite being even at the moment there are different growth and threat opportunities for each company.
– Their growth may well take chunks out of RIM and Apple as more people embrace more open networks and devices, and it also allows them to tap into Motorola’s, Samsung’s and HTC’s individual marketing, distribution and other distribution networks. But,
– Android’s growth depends on its supply networks of hardware manufacturers. While this is good as it allows Android to get across more markets quicker and appeal to a wider audience it does mean that other competitors such as Microsoft, or new OS competitors could cut into the volume of units available. It also means that Android’s growth is tied to hardware popularity, which they don’t control.
– Strong loyalty and market leadership make it the natural leader. ‘iPhone’ is practically synonymous with ‘smartphone’. The moderated app-store and consumer lethargy which are tied to iTunes music and app purchases, will ensure a heavy-user core-database now and in the future. But,
– The closed off nature of Apple products, and Apple’s unwillingness to license their software to non-apple hardware-units means that Apple will face increased pressure from dozens of competitors as smartphones gradually take over the mobile industry.
As Apple’s competitors are adopted by new consumers to the market, Apple’s natural front-of-mind dominance becomes less pronounced, as a whole new generation of smartphone consumers first experience isn’t an iPhone. They are able to make a broader and more informed choices when choosing which hardware they’re going to, and, in fact, Apple units require greater consumer dedication, as Apple works in a more closed environment than their main rivals – switching to a rival in the future could be seen as unnecessarily challenging. For those unwilling to commit, there are easier, and cheaper, alternatives.
– Instant and unlimited email and internet with no data fees is an appealing prospect for many consumers and businesses. Coupled with Blackberry’s perception in the marketplace as a ‘serious business phone for serious business people’, Blackberry’s are still seen by many as a convenient ‘no nonsense’ communication device.
– One of the last dominant bastions of smartphones with actual keys to press, Blackberry will face challenges on a few fronts:
* More open networks will challenge its proprietary systems,
* Data will become cheaper making their unlimited email and browsing less of a draw card,
* As more people, especially those in business and leadership roles, adopt Apple and Android smartphones the ‘serious business phone for serious people’ perception will change. Why can’t ‘serious business’ be done on a device that it functional as well as fun to use?
– As adoption rates slow in younger generations, so to will their growth in future years and, as older mobile users want to keep up with what the young are doing, they will no doubt embrace those platforms too.
– As more OS competitors enter the market with newer OS options, slippage may occur, as RIM Blackberry faces the same situation as Apple: an unwillingness to license out their platform to non-proprietary Blackberry hardware.
All this leads us to the following question:
Who is using which device right now, and to what degree?
Nielsen research has produced this outstanding graphic (below) which demonstrates the breakdown of users by 10-year age bracket.
What we can see is that younger users, those between 18-24 and 25-34 are indeed shifting to Android and Apple, over RIM Blackberry and other OS providers, such as Symbian.
In fact in those crucial two bands, Android leads both Apple and RIM Blackberry. Android only just leads Apple, 14% to 12%, but crushes RIM Blackberry, which holds 11%.
Apple, Android and Blackberry are all holding steady at 6% each in the 34-44 age group, and Blackberry leads by 1% over Android and Apple in the 45-54 age bracket.
Note also that these numbers don’t indicate which generation of any of the systems the individuals are using, so aberrations about the roll-out of individual products like the iPhone 4, or HTC Desire, or Blackberry Torch are minimised, as it takes into account current users, not users upgrading individual units..
There aren’t any firm conclusions to draw in this ever-moving battleground, what can be said is that all three dominant providers have their own challenges and opportunities to remain competitive and draw in more customers. Open networks v Closed networks, Hardware Agnostic v Proprietary Hardware and the threat of new and seriously innovative entrants could still see a dominant player quickly go from market leader to playing catchup.