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Like Sands Through the Hourglass...
By Angela Kujava on 2011-10-04 11:49:59

boxing_glovesWith today's iPhone 4s announcement, the litigious pyrotechnics between Samsung  and Apple, HP’s soapy train wreck, and the release of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, I thought it a good time to review who’s winning and who’s, um…not at all winning, in the mobile world.  

Smartphones
Android is clearly the market share winner.  This Forbes article from a couple months ago (I know, it might as well be a century in “mobile time”) provides a respectable summary of Android’s success, and valid reasons why Apple should not be despondent about the iPhone second place market share. 

Android’s numbers continue to skyrocket since its release.  In May 2010, the powers that be at Google announced they were activating 100,000 Android phones a day.  By August 2010, that number doubled to 200k.  In December, they were activating 300k/day. 

And as you’ll see by reading the Forbes article, now they are turning on more than a half million new phones each day.  I’m pretty sure those numbers indicate that every man, woman, child, dog and cat on the planet owns approximately 3.7 Smartphones each, or that every adult  buys a new phone each week with the groceries, but I digress.

Here’s reason #1 why you don’t want to discount Apple despite Android’s increasing numbers:
iPhones are still incredibly popular and Apple’s App Store offers the largest selection of discrete apps, more than 350,000 as of January 2011 (Wikipedia reports 500,000, but I can’t find a citation to support that number—this is Wikipedia, after all). 

Apple also stated in a press release that there were 160 million current Apple mobile device users at that time.  The Android market reports an offering of 200,000 apps  

Reason #2: Tablets!

Tablets
Apple is clearly the market share winner, and reported third fiscal quarter ‘11 sales of 9.25 million iPads, a 183% unit increase over the year-ago quarter.  CNet and Forrester Research are among many reliable sources that have been confident to release articles about the sheer dominance of the iPad. 

"’We disagree with pundits who have predicted that the iPad will rapidly lose share to Android tablets,’" Wolf wrote in his report. ‘There are over 100,000 applications written for the iPad, compared with a few hundred written [this year] for Android. Unlike a smartphone, which is multidimensional, a tablet's a blank slate without applications.’

But there are clearly other reasons for the iPad's success, according to the analyst.

Over the past several months, more non-Apple tablets have flooded the market, including Motorola's Xoom, Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook, and Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad. But Wolf said all of them have been greeted with ‘a yawn and lackluster sales.’ Some of the tablets, such as the Xoom and PlayBook, were rushed to consumers with critical features missing, notes Wolf.

Plus, none of the tablet makers have been able to compete with Apple on pricing, since the costs of the iPad's components are lower than those of rival devices.

‘Future tablets are more likely to steal share from one another than from the iPad,’ according to Wolf.”

It was estimated that by April 2011, Motorola’s Xoom sold 100,000 units of the 500k-800k manufactured; while Samsung’s legal wrangling with Apple continued to significantly hinder its sales through September.

I can’t get any sort of concrete handle on what RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook is doing (and frankly…yawn) but none of the reports I read are encouraging.  Of course, the Kindle Fire is too new to have meaningful statistics, but some would argue that it’s not accurate to label it an iPad competitor, anyway.

sad_boxerFinally, let’s review the bleak-but-enthralling story of the HP TouchPad.  HP launched the tab, running its proprietary WebOS software, with what must have been a pricey ad campaign, shelling out for the faces and voices of hot commodities Lea Michele, Russell Brand, and Manny Pacquio.  It quickly became evident that consumers weren’t biting, despite the sexy endorsements. 

The news exploded: Best Buy announced that it sold only a fraction of their stock, and the retail giant concurrently threatened to send hundreds of thousands of TouchPads back to HP!  This soon lead to HP discontinuing all WebOS devices, and was likely the nail in the coffin for then CEO Leo Apotheker.  HP is now pinning their hopes on Meg Whitman, though the way they sack CEOs I hope Ms. Whitman is not likewise betting the farm on HP. 

There you have it—no surprises, for now Apple and Android retain their crowns.  Though the landscape is sure getting interesting.