NOTE: My original post, originally published in January 2013, continues to be one of the most viewed on the site. Android and Apple have enjoyed an estimated 98% market share between the two, and many of my earlier projections regarding this market appear to have been borne out. However, the smartphone market has now matured to the point that it is at a strategic inflection point which has major implications for the future of this market and the major competitors. The rapid maturation of the smartphone market should have been foreseen: the rise of domestic Chinese competition combined with the predictable end of the Western consumer fascination with “the next smartphone”
After something of a long hiatus, we have an emerging epic World Chip War Three, which is being fought over “CODECS,” and related chips which power our smartphones. Not that the semiconductor industry hasn’t been innovating and evolving, but this is something much bigger. Today’s news about Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm omits the other crucial player in this new War of Titans, Intel, which has risen from earlier ignominious failures to become the third player in WCW III.
In the simplest terms, the concept here is how a company can potentially increase both revenue and market share by executing a strategy to work with direct or indirect competitor(s) to the benefit of both, a win-win. The old Arab saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” also applies. It can also be as simple as joining an ad hoc collaboration among a group of companies or a standards group to create market order and simplicity from an overcrowded and confused market. Customers invariably respond to products that provide the greatest value and paths to long-term increased value and cost reduction. Collaboration or “Co-opetition” is one of the most effective means to achieve that goal, particularly in an economic environment where “flat is the new up.”
As some may already know, Google is launching its Fi mobile phone service in the United States, and with aggressive expansion plans, hopefully, into Canada and Europe. Google has partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile in the United States. But the intriguing aspect of this new business is Google’s intent to offload phone service to WiFi wherever possible. This prospect has been looming in the wings for awhile, with the talk of true Metro-scale WiFi using VHF white space, and Google’s innovative experiments with “Loon Balloon,” (see my earlier post), and with low orbiting satellite WiFi coverage. Whether these risky and expensive experiments will materialize is another question. However, the prospect of wider area, stronger signal metro WiFi continues to move forward. Google’s hybrid approach using both mobile service frequencies and WiFi to provide full mobile voice and data service is beginning to sound very interesting.
Hopefully this comes as no surprise to many, but for some, alas, I am afraid they have yet to get the email. It’s yet another case of the 1% versus the 99%. Only one percent of Web app developers have made any real money, the other ninety-nine percent are SOL. Forty-seven percent of those, make absolutely no money or less than $100 on their app. Not surprisingly there are now over a million apps on the Apple store, and when you add all of the other sources for apps, you can see that the problem is coming to a head. I saw this coming over two years ago and wrote about the problem on this blog, citing a New York Times story published about that time, describing the dark underbelly of the Web app development culture. In a satire of the problem, last year The Onion published a gag story about a new app called “Squander” that enabled users to “geolocate others nearby who had also wasted $2 on the same app.”
This is another on my series on industry analysis. The recent University of Ottawa study on the demise of Nortel Networks, tells us what many of us already knew. The most important constructive criticism of this study is that it should have been done years ago. The Nortel collapse was followed by a surprisingly similar scenario at RIM, now Blackberry. Mike Lazaridis, who served as RIM’s co-CEO along with Jim Balsillie until January, 2012, are generally considered to have failed to respond adequately to the market encroachments of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android phones, as Blackberry’s market share plummeted. I recently showed my undergrad and graduate strategy students a video of a Charlie Rose interview with John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems. Chambers emphasized the acceleration of the Adizes corporate life cycle, in many cases to less than ten years, and the need for constant reinvention to survive in this challenging and rapidly changingnew world.
Over a year ago now someone on the UBC campus, who was thinking of developing an app, told me about this cool application for capturing cards into your contacts by photographing them on your smart phone. It was Cardmunch. It turned out that the application was only available on the iPhone at that time, but as luck would have it, the company had just been acquired by LinkedIn. Voila! It would obviously only be a few months at most before I could obtain it for my Samsung Android smart phone, right? Wrong. That was over a year ago.
Readers of this blog will recall last week’s post on the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) report on the mobile phone market. The problems for both Microsoft and Blackberry were exposed again for all to see. Microsoft’s Windows Phone market share at 3.7%, would have been even smaller without Nokia. Blackberry’s situation was even more dire. A few months back Microsoft and Blackberry opened another new patent war on each other, as if this would somehow help their situations.
This week Blackberry has announced the inevitable search for a potential buyer to take the company private, as has also happened recently with Dell Computer. The suggestion that Ballmer and Microsoft should consider purchasing Blackberry is actually a potentially very interesting idea. A broader market consolidation, with much larger implications, may be on the horizon.
Students of Industry Analysis will note the importance of high technology industry analysis firms, like International Data Corporation (IDC), which this week issued its quarterly reports on the state of key technology markets. The report has been seized upon, sliced and diced by the Wall Street Journal, and a host of other media sources. The technology blogosphere is alive with comment, PandoDaily, Gigaom, TechCrunch, Gizmodo have all been furiously offering their own spins on the IDC Report. It is amazing to see so much of the industry talking about nothing else but IDC today. Similar firms like Forrester, Gartner and others offer similar industry analysis reports, but IDC is the big dog, and the mobile market is their dog food.
In a further episode of my earlier posts on the Mega Mobile Market Share War, it would seem that International Data Corporation (IDC) and Gartner, the two leading high tech industry analysis firms, are haggling over whether the precipitous drop in quarterly PC sales is 11. 2% or 14%. It also adds evidence to the accelerating rate of change in the corporate life cycle. Corporate life cycle events that took a decade are now occurring in a few short years.