The Refreshingly Competitive World of Mobile Operating Systems

Carl Weinschenk
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10 New Smartphones for Business

It doesn't make much sense to get wrapped up in all the minor details of which mobile operating system has slightly gained, which is off a bit and which has stayed even, especially since analysts firms will see things differently and the small-bore results likely will contradict each other. The best approach is to watch the big trends for signs of significant changes.

First quarter smartphone shipment results are being released and the results are interesting. ComScore released its first-quarter tracking data for the United States. Google Android is up fairly significantly (6 percent to 34.7 percent), RIM is down (4.5 percent to 27.1 percent) and Apple is a tad up (.5 percent to 25.5 percent).

Canalys reported on the worldwide scene. The firm found that Android held 35 percent of the market - with 35.7 million units shipped - and that Nokia enjoyed a 13 percent year-on-year increase. The biggest result, however, was that smartphone shipments grew 83 percent to more than 100 million units.

The third firm to report findings is IHS iSuppli. The firm found that number one vendor Nokia finished the quarter with 24.9 percent of the market. The top five were rounded out by Apple with a 19.2 percent market share, RIM with a 15.2 percent market share, Samsung at 13 percent and HTC at 9.9 percent.

The big message - and one that isn't exactly new - is that the mobile smartphone operating system environment is truly a horse race. The ComScore numbers, for instance, saw three players with roughly even pieces of the pie. They are separated by 9.2 percent and cumulatively control 88.2 percent of the market. Likewise, the iSuppli numbers saw a fifth place player with a healthy 9.9 percent of the market. Canalys wasn't as articulate when it came to company percentages, but painted a rosy picture of fast-paced growth.

The biggest trend is that the explosion of smartphone growth isn't slowing. That's likely to be the case for quite a while. It is almost unnecessary to say that the days of the dreaded monoculture - the term that came to define Microsoft Window's dominance of the desktop OS world - are a memory. The strengths and weaknesses of each operating system, which often represent truly diverse philosophies as well as different technologies, are likely to maintain the overall equilibrium. That's the best evidence that the world of mobility will continue to be competitive and innovative despite the consolidation of the carrier market.

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