The Gartner report on the Q3 Smartphone market shares only serves up the a few of the most obvious conclusions: Android’s rise as the Smartphone OS continues unabated and by the look of things, Android will overthrow Symbian from its leadership position sooner than expected. Also, while Apple may lost a few percentage points in the smartphone rankings, the iPhone retains the No.1 spot in making margins and money. The unsaid part of the story is the rapid scale that iPad is building up for Apple in the Tablet space. Though, there are the Androids that are beginning to surface, Apple maintains a few strategic advantages that would be its strongest assets in future: Consistency and Scale across a category of device.
The mobile market is now defined by a fight to control and sell content, applications and services. Apple and Google are competing on a basis that transcends traditional mobile market issues. Few can replicate this, and a closer examination shows us that the rivalry between Apple and Google is threatening the value of enterprises as diverse as Amazon, Microsoft, Nokia and Visa.
Scale is still important, but the likely winners can also be identified by assets and strategies that cover multiple screens and markets. Apple’s dramatic expansion of iOS with the iPad and the continuing success of the iPod Touch are important sales achievements in their own right. But more importantly they contribute to the strength of Apple’s ecosystem and the iPhone in a way that smartphone-only manufacturers cannot compete with. Rival manufacturers and platforms, notably Android, have the ability to close the gap or even beat Apple in terms of design innovation and key performance elements.
However, Apple’s multi-device strategy has an inherent advantage. To a developer, the iPod Touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity. While Android is increasingly available on media tablets and media players like the Galaxy Player, it lags far behind iOS’s multi-device presence. Apple claims it is activating around 275,000 iOS devices per day on average — that’s a compelling market for any developer. And developers’ applications in turn attract users. Thus, Apple continues to widen the gap on the basis of its underlying transaction- and ad-driven business model. The addition of iBooks and native iAd to the platform may have been predictable. But their coupling to the well-executed new iPhone design suggests a trend that is set to continue.