The life of a smartphone manufacturer is not an easy one. In order to be successful, you need a laundry list of elements to fall in place at just the right times. You don’t just need a familiar name or killer hardware anymore. Manufacturers and developers should be able to create an entire ecosystem surrounding their product. This is something Google and Apple have done very well. And something Palm, HP, RIM, Nokia and even Microsoft have failed, or are failing, to do.
webOS is dead
You can argue the semantics of that header all you want, but in the end it’s true. HP has announced that they are abandoning the production of webOS devices. They say they aren’t killing the OS, but since no one else makes webOS devices, well they are killing the OS. Sure, HP can try to license webOS. At this point though, it just doesn’t matter. There is very little developer support and no ecosystem surrounding the platform. And with Android at the throne of licensed mobile OSes, why would someone pay to use an operating system with no ecosystem? There is no webOS email. No gigantic app store. Developer support is weak. And fragmentation? There are currently eight different versions of webOS on different devices.
Best case scenario? Google buys up some webOS developers and milks them for their talent in design. And no one tried to crash the funeral.
Nokia is dead
Fortunately for webOS, the platform seems to be on a swift ride to the sweet beyond. While we don’t know exactly how it will play out, it’s safe to assume it will just fizzle out sooner than later. Nokia on the other hand, is being slowly lowered into the grave, smiling and waving the entire time. The public statements made out of Espoo would lead you to believe that the folks at Nokia are delusional. They are on the path of destruction. They are killing off their software departments, and slowly becoming nothing more than a licensed OS using hardware company. It’s not like that is all bad necessarily, but Microsoft isn’t doing so hot these days.
No matter how you try to spin Microsoft’s success or failure with WP7 so far, Nokia as we knew it is dead.
Best case scenario? Nokia becomes the most popular manufacturer of Windows phones.
RIM is dying
The story of RIM has been painful to watch. While the company still has a strong grip on a lot of developing markets, it may not stay that way for long. As the numbers have shown in recent quarters, RIM is losing market share. And fast. But RIM has such a loyal user-base. They have a decent ecosystem. They’re working on fostering healthy developer support. Is it all just too little too late?
When RIM announced they’d be using QNX in the future, fanboys trumpeted the return of the relevant BlackBerry. If the PlayBook is any indication of how a smartphone release will play out though, you can kiss RIM goodbye. They need to shake the old business stigmas attached to their name, and beef it up in the innovation department. I’d still keep an eye on the company for the time being, but another round of phones that prompt review titles like “old-school design minus old-school lag,” and it’s game over. RIM simply cannot continue to rely on faithful customers to run an entire business.
Best case scenario? RIM gets their ducks in a row and really takes things up a notch, attracting developers and consumers to give the new BlackBerry another chance.
Microsoft is in trouble
Microsoft has never had much luck in the mobile OS department. When it comes to desktop operating systems, Windows is still king. Windows Phone however, hasn’t been that lucky.
For the most part, I believe Windows Phone just hasn’t taken off yet. Microsoft has all the elements of success on their side, they just don’t have the word Android or Apple in their product names. It’s still possible that Microsoft will rally the troops and manage an incredibly successful comeback. They’re just well behind the competition right now. Microsoft is in trouble, but they certainly are not dead.
Best case scenario? Microsoft continues work on Windows Phone, and eventually takes a comfortable spot in the top three largest mobile operating systems.
Apple is doing great
As much as you may not want to read that, it’s true. Apple is doing great. While they may not be gaining as much market share as they used to, Apple is still in a comfortable place. And like it or not, the iPhone has defined the current smartphone model. Apple has incredible developer support, they keep a current stream of innovation being fed into their products and they have a media-centric ecosystem that expands across multiple devices.
For as far as the eye can see (which isn’t far in the ever-changing world of mobile OSes) Apple will be a top competitor in the mobile arena.
Best case scenario? Apple and Google continue to push each other to create quality products, a deeper ecosystem and a mobile landscape where the consumer is the only real winner.
Google is on top of their game
If you’re in the mobile operating system game right now, Google is who you want to be.
Google, along with hardware partners, is leading the pack in innovation, depth of ecosystem and developer support. Google is moving so fast, there is no real slowdown in sight. They take the top spot in mobile OS market share, and the numbers are still rapidly accelerating.
Google has operating systems on phones, PMPs, tablets, laptops, desktops, set-top boxes, TVs, watches and more. They have proved time and time again now that they know what they’re doing. All we have to do as consumers is sit back, and enjoy the wonderful ride.
Best case scenario? Google continues on as the leader in technology they’ve become today.
As I said at the beginning of this 1,000 word article, the life of a smartphone manufacturer is not an easy one. In order to be successful, you need a laundry list of elements to fall in place at just the right times. There’s a reason why we choose to use Android devices here at Android and Me, and the reason is rather simple. Google provides the top overall experience in smartphones today. They’re one of the few companies in the world who have enough talent and skills to push the limits of how we use technology everyday. Fortunately for us, that isn’t going to stop anytime soon.