The current market has proven that it can't support an unlimited number of smartphone platforms. But there's still some consolidation to go, believes Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam.
In January of this year, you could argue that the top mobile ecosystems were Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Nokia's Symbian, RIM's BlackBerry, and HP/Palm's webOS. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 (merely months old) was but a blip. That was too many for the carriers and the market. At least one or two of the platforms/ecosystems had to go down.
The industry has done a good job of shaking things up this year, there's no doubt of that. Nokia's Symbian platform was the first to get the boot when Nokia ditched it for WP7 in February. It was followed more recently by HP/Palm's webOS, which HP decided to ax in August. (Though HP is considering what to do with webOS, it is for all intents and purposes defunct.)
With two down, that still leaves four major mobile smartphone platforms battling for carrier and consumer attention: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and WP7. This is still too many, and further consolidation is likely to occur. Android is the leading platform, and iOS isn't too far behind. They are both here to stay.
That means Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry OS are left to battle it out for the spot as the third major ecosystem.
"The carriers are beginning to coalesce around the need for a third ecosystem," said McAdam at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference on Wednesday, reported FierceWireless. "Over the next 12 months I think it will coalesce and you will start to see one emerge as a legitimate third ecosystem."
Which will it be?
There's no doubt that RIM is in trouble. It has misfired completely with the PlayBook tablet, and its latest batch of BlackBerry smartphones--while capable little business machines--are not the revolutionary type of product that most users want.
Can Microsoft really step up and fill RIM's enterprise and consumer shoes? A recent report from Connected Enterprise paints an uncertain picture.
Its data shows that 45% of consumers aren't even aware that Windows Phone 7 exists. Of those who at least knew that WP7 existed, most indicated that they didn't know enough about it for the platform to garner any real attention. Others said they were afraid of lock-in with the WP7 ecosystem, with 21% saying they had already invested too much time and/or money in competing platforms.
With RIM's missteps, Microsoft has a real opportunity here to become the third major player in the smartphone space. If the company can get around its marketing problem, it just might have a chance.
UPDATE: A portion of McAdam's quote inadvertently contained a sentence that didn't belong to him. McAdam didn't specifically state that he thinks WP7 will beat BBOS. Text adjusted above to account for this mistake.
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