Mobile Platform Wars: What’s Next?


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highly successful Blackberry Messenger service. The rate of growth in traditional forms of messaging (voicemail, e-mail, and SMS) is being both subsidized by and supplanted by the growth of social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and private messaging networks (BBM, the forthcoming iMessage, Jive). This leads to two significant opportunities:

  • Drive the discussion of the next-generation messaging, leveraging unique assets and putting a great UI wrapper that ties all of these disparate services together, with the right personal/business sandboxing controls.
  • Re-capture share in the enterprise with private messaging networks (such as what Jive is doing), tied into public business-centric social networking services (such as LinkedIn).

And what about Microsoft? Well, everything about the most recent Windows phone devices has been about the consumer space. I believe it is going to be awfully difficult for them to gain meaningful share. After all, the latest devices are pretty competitive, but have not sold well. Microsoft still has huge share, across so many products, in the enterprise. If they can put some of these pieces together (Office, Outlook, SharePoint, Live!/Cloud) in a unique and differentiated mobile play, there might be an opportunity to finally gain more than a token share of the mobile OS market.

4. Who Will Lead in the Cloud?

So much of the discussion about the “post-PC” world has centered on the tablet, which to this point is 85 percent about the iPad. But what about the smartphone’s role in the cloud?

I personally believe that Android market in its current form is a placeholder for Google, and that content and apps will become increasingly Web-based, adjusted for context (device, connectivity, etc.). Example: Amazon’s redesign of its website for an improved experience on mobile devices is tilted more toward the browser than the app. At Apple, the initial iteration of iCloud is focused on media, but the longer-term bet is for a post-iTunes framework, across the breadth of content and apps, accessed from multiple devices.

There is a great opportunity for somebody to define what mobile in the cloud is going to look like. Cloud services assume almost constant connectivity. But we all know that assumption breaks down pretty quickly in mobile. Neither wireless networks nor pricing models are architected with a constantly connected, multi-GB/month consumption model in mind.

So what is going to be the interplay between mobile devices, and content/apps/media in the cloud? There’s certainly a need to define how content will be accessed when off-line, in a zone of sub-par connectivity, or if you are counting your gigabytes. For the wireless historians among us, RIM designed its successful mobile e-mail service within the constraints of a 2G world.

This is an area where non-traditional players in mobile might play an instrumental role. Think Amazon, HP, Dell, Oracle, IBM, Cisco. This could spell further acquisitions or consolidation in the handset space. Or at the least, some meaningful partnerships.

June 2012 will mark the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone. The iPhone and its impact have largely driven the discussion during this period. And though I expect Apple to be a hugely important player over the next several years, there is opportunity for others to define what the next-generation device/platform framework might look like.

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Mark Lowenstein, an Xconomist, is managing director of Mobile Ecosystem, a wireless industry consulting firm. Subscribe to his free Lens on Wireless newsletter here. Follow @marklowenstein

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