The future is in smartphone services

N Madhavan

New Delhi, Nov. 18 -- Sometimes, the war between mobile operating systems in the exploding world of smartphones and tablets resembles superpower rivalry. And so, it seems the world is getting polarised between Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Microsoft's Windows - on which Nokia is riding - is the new kid on the block to watch out for.

Data for the July-September quarter showed Android's market share jumping to 72.4% of the new handsets sold in the quarter, up from 52.5% in the same period a year ago. In the same period, Nokia's Symbian plunged from 16.9% to 2.6% while Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS dropped from 11% to 5.3%. Apple iOS held steady, with its share dipping from 15% to 13.9%.

Now, Apple's iPhones are the luxury products of this segment. Android is across various price points, from Samsung's Galaxy SIII that takes on the iPhones to Aakash, the cheapest tablet in the world made in India.

The key question is whether Microsoft's Windows Phone, whose share is currently at 2.4%, will take off to jump back into the game and whether BlackBerry 10 - the next big thing from RIM expected to be released in January - shows something dazzling.

As I have argued before, the game is shifting to non-physical aspects of the smartphones/tablets, and at the right price. Applications or apps will be crucial. Both Windows and BlackBerry makers are on that path, but Android has captured the mass imagination.

Both in apps and looks/sturdiness, they can at best match Apple's features or add one or two more features that will only create niche markets

My guess is that if Microsoft and RIM have to make a big impact, they have to create a business model in which they have to hold the hands of customer segments with a strong focus on services. The game in 2013 will not be about "better phones" or "cool apps" but "newer services." I would be watching out for initiatives on that.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.