It has been clear for a while that the dynamic duo of Google's Android and Apple's iOS will dominate the mobile operating system sector. What will be interesting-and what is the topic of the commentary in many places, including this InformationWeek piece by Eric Zeman-is which operating system will play the all-important role of third stringer.
Clearly, the inexorable growth of smartphones and tablets means that the third player will get plenty of business. It also will keep the top two players on the proverbial straight and narrow. Zeman correctly points out that the two leading candidates are Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows Phone.
The two seem to be moving in quite different directions. Computerworld points to a Forrester Research study that says the combined use of the iPhone and Android in the enterprise (at 22 percent and 26 percent, respectively) has risen beyond the BlackBerry's 42 percent. This is quite a milestone. Clearly, 42 percent still is a healthy slice of the pie-but one that is shrinking.
This quote from Connected Intelligence Research Director Linda Barrabee, which is in the press release hyping the research, sums up the prospects for Windows Phone:
"Windows Phone 7 has a way to go before consumers really understand what it is," Barrabee said. "But with the right marketing mojo, apps portfolio, and feature-rich hardware, Microsoft could certainly improve its standing and chip away at Android's dominant market position."
PCMag.com also is playing the who's on third game. The key paragraph of a story on the topic is a quote from Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam:
"The carriers are beginning to coalesce around the need for a third ecosystem," McAdam said during a talk at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference. "Over the next 12 months I think it will coalesce and you will start to see one emerge as a legitimate third ecosystem. In my opinion, it'll be between RIM and Microsoft, and I expect Microsoft to come out victorious."
That's a bit of a bold prediction, since RIM's percentages still dwarf Windows Phone's. It is an important race to watch, and one that may end up being more dramatic than the fight for the top spot between Apple and Google. At this point, it seems that Microsoft has the advantage.