Last time I checked, Nokia still leads the smartphone race followed by Samsung, Research in Motion (RIM), Apple and HTC(at some distance). That picture would remain so, for quite some time. Except that Apple and RIM could be jostled along by HTC. Samsung and Nokia should continue their lead to win the smartphone race.
Smartphone race is not about hardware or software alone. It is about both. A player needs to have a software, app ecosystem, operating system (sometimes) and impeccable hardware with products in all categories and most importantly the player have to be open. Though Nokia and HTC do not have a complete product category to compete, they can still win this race. And Samsung is the only player which has hands in all pie’s of mobile computing.
Samsung has some sound strategy going on for it. It has the hardware and its Galaxy Tab has proved to be only worthy opponent for iPad in 2010. Samsung is open to new operating systems. Most of the time it is more than open. Samsung launched a series of Android phones and a Android tablet. When Windows Phone 7 launched, it drummed the Windows beat too. Samsung’s own operating system Bada has quietly gained a 2% market share. Bada’s 2% share is attributed to a handful of Samsung Wave series phones.
Samsung is the only complete smartphone player which is present in all categories and thriving. It’s open to all operating system’s, it has its own operating system and backs the whole thing up with some good hardware. Samsung is poised to win this race unless it does something stupid (like locking down Galaxy Tab).
Nokia still leads. That is the only reason why Nokia is part of the discussion. May be not. Nokia has some deep roots in the mobile space and it cannot be written off easily. Nokia is taking some heavy beating and it needs something to stop bleeding. Hardware never was Nokia’s problem. Nokia N8 is the first smartphone with 12 megapixel camera. If N8 was an Android phone then it would have sold more than four million phones. Nokia’s I-will-stick-with-Symbian-come-what-may is turning out to be Nokia’s undoing.
Nokia’s joint partnership with Intel to develop Meego operating system is a step in the right direction but it’s fraught with risks. Meego has to evolve. If Meego follows the Android trajectory, it would be a minimum of two or three years to make any decent inroads in to the smartphone OS growth charts. That is a long time to stay dormant in the smartphone race. Nokia needs an alternative strategy and that alternative is definitely not Symbian.
Rumors are abound that Nokia is getting cozy with Microsoft. There could be a Nokia phone running WP7 lurking somewhere here. That is one good news from Nokia camp. There could be a better news – Nokia phone running Android. I am not sure if it is ego or blind faith that Nokia doesn’t look at Android. Whatever it is, Nokia has to shed it. Nokia should follow Samsung’s and HTC’s strategy. It should sell phones running Android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian and Meego. Depending on the numbers it can shut down Symbian or Meego or WP7. And Nokia needs a tablet too.
HTC has quietly slipped into the top smartphone makers list. This was credited with the success of Android operating system. Though true, I would like to credit the success to not just Android but HTC’s stratagem. It has been open all the while. HTC sold touch screen phones with windows operating system. When Android came along, HTC was the first company to adopt it and launched the first Android phone – HTC Dream. Though all HTC phones running Android are runaway success, HTC did not ignore Microsoft’s latest offering. HTC became the first company to launch a windows phone in India. Pioneering efforts like these go a long way. HTC knows it better than everyone else.
HTC has been a laggard in the tablet space and that might soon change. It has registered the trademark for the word “SCRIBE” and a HTC tablet should be around the corner. Only thing HTC lacks is its own operating system. With so many mobile OS’s competing for developer attention, does HTC really need a OS? Do we really need another OS?
That leaves us with Apple and RIM which are sailing the same ship. Apple and RIM have cult products. They are not for the mass consumption. They have a certain amount of aura going on for them. iOS or RIM’s OS do not run on any other hardware. iPhone or Blackberry’s do not run any other OS (legally that is). That would make them limited editions. More and more of Android phones will be sold in 2011, which would increase the overall smartphone market. When that happens the actual pie increases but the share of iOS and RIM would shrink.