4 Comments

Summary:

Consider the smartphone market in March 2006, five years ago this month: the iPhone hadn’t been announced. Android was a lukewarm rumor base…

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photo: Margaret_Anne_Clarke

Consider the smartphone market in March 2006, five years ago this month: the iPhone hadn’t been announced. Android was a lukewarm rumor based on the premise that Andy Rubin’s team had to be doing something for Google (NSDQ: GOOG). Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm (NYSE: HPQ), and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) were forces of nature, and more people in the U.S. were using PDAs (remember those?) than smartphones.

Yet market research companies are in the prediction business, and therefore bound to produce 5-year forecasts for an industry that according to a recent Bloomberg article on Nokia is operating with product cycles that are just six months long. IDC’s latest forecast, released Tuesday, makes several assumptions about vendor positioning in 2015 that there’s simply no way to either support or refute based on the speed at which this market is developing.

IDC’s 2011 predictions are more reliable. During this year the firm expects smartphone vendors to ship 450 million smartphones, up 49.5 percent from the 303.4 million units shipped in 2010. IDC expects Android to extend its current-market share lead at the expense of Symbian, which is being ignored by consumers and developers alike as Nokia reboots around Windows Phone 7. It thinks Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and RIM will remain neck-and-neck as Windows Phone 7 gains a bit of share.

But you have to shrug your shoulders at the 2015 predictions. IDC said that Android will grow faster than the overall market and remain the overall leader, but that Apple and RIM will grow slower than the overall market while Windows Phone 7 essentially surges into the second-place spot on the back of its deal with Nokia (NYSE: NOK). HP’s WebOS did not rate a mention, lumped into the “Others” category.

It’s not that IDC is patently wrong: all of those things could certainly happen. But the entire market has been flipped on its head in the last five years. It’s a bit of an assumption to predict there are still going to be four distinct mobile operating systems in 2015, let alone handicap their chances. And as Engadget points out, just a year ago IDC predicted that Symbian would still be the market leader in 2013, citing “the strength of Nokia in markets outside of the United States.” Whoops: they’ve now got them declining to 0.2 percent by 2015 as Nokia embraces a U.S.-designed operating system.

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  1. Makes a lot of sense. If you are going to build a mobile solution I guess you better make sure it’s mobile platform agnostic. This is a problem that we are working hard to circumvent with our upcoming products.

  2. Kenneth Berger Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    The issue is what will iOs5 and iOs6 be like and will apple innovate beyond the basic touch interface?
    If and when Apple leaves Google behind (maps etc) do they change the game again and if so all the projections change.
    This is not certain but it is probably certain that MSFT, Google or RIM will most likely not do anything that changes the playing-field much. They may take advantage of opportunities in channel or hardware but they will not be the ones to change the paradigm
    And IDC was totally wrong about Apple iPhone growth for the past year so they do not have much of a track record.
    And ether RIM will hit it out of the box with their new OS next year or will drop considerably but the likelihood that they will only lose a precent or two is not very realistic.

  3. @Kenneth The only reason I wouldn’t be surprised at only a slight loss in a year’s time for RIM is because IT departments can be so conservative when it comes to switching, and because RIM probably won’t transition the whole product line within a year. But in the long run, I agree with you, it’s either feast or famine as they switch BlackBerry to something QNX-like.

  4. Peter Curnow-Ford Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    “Forecast Could Totally Maybe Happen ” – I suggest its either going to happen or it isn’t, maybe totally doesn’t make sense?

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