PODCAST: Tomi Ahonen Forecasts Mobile “Platform War”; Will Apple Be On The Losing Side?

Topic: Media, Mobile Research | Author: Peggy Anne Salz | Date: August 10, 2010

mobile statsIn brief: Time for our monthly podcast with Tomi Ahonen, mobile author and authority. We kick off with a look at our growing addiction to text messaging and wrap up with a well founded argument against going it alone in mobile. Does the company with the largest ecosystem win? Read on and find out…

While the global press and digerati may focus sharply on handset shipments and market share reported by individual vendors, the vast majority are blind to the decisive battle taking place between platform providers.

In his recent blog, Tomi Ahonen begs us to think beyond the quarterly numbers and handset shipments, and get our head around the real story. This is not about sales; this is about a race between players to be the dominant mobile phone operating system. The winner(s) will shape the mobile industry (and how we live our lives) for decades to come.

Why does it impact us?

tomi ahonenBecause mobile is rising up to take its rightful position at the center of our (digital) daily routine. As Tomi points out: “If you think digital convergence is a major trend…, then mobile is at the center of that convergence. While smartphones today form only 19 percent of all phones sold, most major analysts of mobile believe that the majority of all mobile phones will become smartphones before the end of this decade. Many think that all mobile phones will be smartphones by then. And the relentless advance of Moore’s Law certainly suggests it’s likely that most ‘dumbphones’ will turn into smartphones by the end of the decade.”

Who are the likely winners? Tomi does the math and shows that size does matter.

However, this size is not a measure of the numbers we count in quarterly results and balance sheets. The number we should pay more attention to is the number of vendors, developers and “family” members in the platform ecosystem that proactively support the OS.

Against this backdrop, companies that insist on fighting it alone (Apple, RIM, HP with Palm) are “doomed to become tiny niche players.”

What will ultimately happen to this group? It’s a tough one to call, but Tomi warns us they will only achieve single-digit market share – if they’re lucky. “Platform wars produce a whole ‘family of winners’ and a ‘family of losers’. If your tech brand supported a losing side, no matter how great your product (and how profitable your company), you end up disappointing your customers and abandoning the long term gains to your rivals. The worst humiliation comes when (or if) you are forced to join the rival standard – like when Sony started to sell VHS-based VCRs (or, arguably, when Apple joined the Intel CPU based computers and made Macs 100% Windows Compatible).”


Tomi and I also explore the meaning of a surprising stat from Motorola (based on a consumer survey) that shows a significant number (30 percent) of people prefer a device with a QWERTY keypad. Earlier this year, a report from the research firm NPD found that people want to text, a desire that is driving them to buy mobile phones with QWERTY keypads.

What does this new number from Motorola tell us?

In Tomi’s view, this “astonishing” stat confirms that many analysts have a “false understanding of the mobile industry.” Put another way, there is no reason to assume we will transfer our personal computer behavior over time to our personal mobile devices. Touch screen may be cool, but there will always be people who want to use phone for text, not surfing the Web. After all, the mobile is a personal communications device.

As Tomi reminds us: “There is a good opportunity for computer-like mobile devices,” but it’s the “need to communicate and the addiction to texting and messaging that drives the whole industry.”

That’s the reason we take our phones with us everywhere we go (!)


More children in the U.K. have phones than books. It’s not good news for a best-selling author like Tomi, but ReadWriteWeb argues it could have an upside. What do YOU think?

[Listen to the podcast here and pass it on! 11:53]


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