In short it means the mobile phone industry is in a very good place. If every player has to keep making radical changes in order to advance, tread water or even lose market share ”less” quickly then it speaks volumes for the innovation currently taking place. In fact it is no surprise that – given the convenience of the form factor and mass market simplicity of the software – longer running ‘computers’ such as desktops, laptops and tablets are taking their cues from advancement in the smartphone sector.
Better still the smartphone and computing sectors in general are progressing in very positive ways. This time last year it seemed iOS and Android would dominate mobile devices, that Microsoft and Palm were too late, RIM washed up and ARM chips unstoppable. Simple as this arrangement would be it would curtail innovation. Instead as we approach November 2011 Apple is arguably treading water and playing catch up with Android features, Google is unifying its platform though risking the wrath of its partners after the backfiring acquisition of Motorola, Microsoft is on a roll with Mango and Windows 8, RIM at last has a shiny new OS, Nokia is getting back in the game and Sony is no doubt about to throw the full force of its financial and multimedia muscle behind its recouped mobile brand.
Even webOS might not hit the scrap heap with Sony, Amazon and HTC all sniffing around and even Palm-breaker HP has declared it will remain in the PC and mobile sector and fight the hardware fight using Windows 8. The playing field is certainly far from even, but at least it is no longer two jocks stealing everyone else’s lunch money.
All of which means tension is rising and desperation is creeping to the surface. Apple will be forced to laud relatively minor software and design changes for the next 12 months and battery woes suggest iOS5 was rushed out the door. Google is fighting a losing battle against patents and trying to stop partners from getting skittish about Motorola hardware. RIM is slashing PlayBook prices yet still getting nowhere, Sony is paying $1.5bn just to get back into the limelight and famously quiet Finnish giant Nokia is taking a few too many tips from Steve Ballmer and screaming without reason – all the while it is quietly building a new platform, Meltemi and hiring webOS people.
As if the pot didn’t need stirring any more Intel could finally be ready to rival ARM, Amazon is after everyone but Apple and new Apple CEO Tim Cook has released the iPhone 3GS free on contract as he reminds everyone: “We believe that over time all phones become smartphones. This market is an enormous opportunity.”
It sounds manic because it is manic. 2011 is the year everyone changed, yet everything stayed the same. In 2012 it will be different…