New developments in the global smart mobile and tablet war at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Spain, continue to add to the intrigue, infighting and mega dollars being bet on this market…with little impact so far on the probable outcome. I have spoken with two colleagues who are in Barcelona this week watching it all unfold.
Blackberry (the former Research in Motion), Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, and Microsoft, are all struggling and at risk, and making bold survival moves, with mega dollars. Meanwhile, Google and Android continue to consolidate their market dominance globally, but not without major worries about Samsung “wearing the pants” in the Android market.
First, Hewlett-Packard, which in my opinion damaged its brand irreparably two years ago, with moves out of, then back into, both the tablet and PC markets, has left consumers and industry analysts befuddled. Years ago there was the bizarre acquisition of the Palm handheld OS for $2 Billion, which is now a boat anchor. Recently, HP again blundered in its acquisition of British software firm, Autonomy for $11.1 Billion. Previously, AOL‘s acquisition of Time Warner in 2000 has been considered the worst corporate deal of all time, but HP has stolen this title from AOL with the Autonomy deal. The HP brand also still retains the old “plastic pocket protector” engineer geek image, which simply does not play well against Apple or Google. However the move to Android on HP tablets makes good sense, and is a major slap in the face to Microsoft. IMHO, HP’s situation is analogous to Blackberry. Despite recycling CEO’s and moving to the dominant tablet OS, Android, the market window has closed for HP. The industry trade and business press has been asking editorially if all of the bad news and blunders are more than just coincidence, as if a jinx has descended on HP. with the ghosts of both Hewlett and Packard rising out of their graves in despair.
Blackberry has done everything right. It is difficult to find any fault with the efforts of the new CEO and team to turn the company around. Nevertheless, finding a realistic and reasonable scenario where Blackberry survives is increasingly difficult. Corporate and U.S. government customers are leaving the Blackberry fold. Some argue that Blackberry’s secure networking is the corporate jewel. However, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Samsung and General Dynamics announced a partnership to provide end-to-end mobile device security down to the application layer, providing a direct competitive threat to Blackberry.
Microsoft must be reeling from HP”s decision to switch to Android, and frankly the image around Microsoft’s investment in the Dell privatization, looks more like paying for a destitute friend’s funeral. Some have speculated that Microsoft’s investment is also viewed very unfavorably by other PC makers, making matters worse. Nokia, Microsoft’s anchor device partner for Windows Mobile, would be negligent if they were not scanning the market projections for Windows 8, and pondering HP’s decision to jump to Android. Nokia’s best option for survival at this stage may also be to switch to Android. All of this is surely making Microsoft executives nervous.
I have real doubts seeing any these competitors achieving survivable market share positions in the market. I am not prescient, but my gut, after years of working in this space says no.
WRT Google, Android and Samsung, the Wall Street Journal yesterday published an an article aptly titled, “Samsung Sparks Anxiety At Google.” As I suggested in my last post on this topic, Samsung has become so dominant in the Android OS market, controlling over 40% market share, that Google correctly sees significant risk in any renegotiation with Samsung. Google is hopeful that new Android devices from HTC and HP will apply competitive pressure to Samsung, and diminish its negotiating leverage with Google. Earlier rumors had Samsung considering launching its own OS to compete with Android. This seems far fetched in the larger scheme of this market, but stranger things have happened.
More on the Mobile World Conference and The Smart Mobile Mega War next week.