By Mike Anderson
There is a war taking place in mobile and the battle ground is the Mobile Ecosystem. Mobile ecosystems are the key to success in mobile. Devices grab the headlines, as Microsoft did this week with Surface and like Apple did in March with the 3rd generation iPad. Behind the tablets and smartphones must be an ecosystem with an OS for multiple platforms, an app store loaded with apps and supported by a strong developer community, and content (see “Winning in Mobile: The Five Essential Components of a Mobile Ecosystem”; click here for free access to the report). Each of the key ingredients plays a part, and the mobile ecosystem wars are about to claim more casualties.
Mobile Ecosystem Casualties
Nokia continues to make big news and not all of it is good. Nokia is in the middle of a shift to a new Mobile Ecosystem, one that is more focused on Smart Phones than its original one, which was based on Symbian (which was ideal for non-Smartphones). Its strategic relationship with Microsoft and Windows Phone futures was to turn around the ship, but we’re witnessing a really slow turn. Along the path, losses are mounting and market share continues to decline as the iPhone and Android gain. Another five-digit layoff was just announced, and the keeping the manufacturing engine running may drain cash before the smartphone strategy and future Windows Phone power can catch up.
RIM is facing a similar scenario, with a declining presence of its once dominant BlackBerry in most segments and barely niche presence with the PlayBook tablet (see Recent Blog post on RIM). Making reductions in its manufacturing and supply chain, aggressively cutting costs and in the throes of additional layoffs, RIM is pulling out all the stops to hold on. Future hopes rest on BlackBerry 10, RIM’s new OS due late this year, but having powerful enough app developer support remains a weighty risk.
Staying the course in the mobile ecosystem wars leaves little room for missteps, even with good products. The HP TouchPad was very short lived, and Cisco’s Cius is the most recent casualty. Neither was able to break through in volume, and get buy in from the consumer. The Cius built a strong message for enterprises, and also provided solid video and networking functions, but consumer focus across the entire ecosystem continues to rule.
Mobile Ecosystem – The Device Dimension
Google took a big step deeper into the ecosystem model with its acquisition of Motorola. But the big thing for Google has been to keep its mobile ecosystem competitive with Apple. That said from a device perspective, having devices in the Google mix deepens control of their mobile ecosystem, and enables more predictable end-to-end experience and the potential to build a larger segment that uses the most current version of Android.
Microsoft has been late to the mobile ecosystem game. Now with Surface, a partnership with Barnes & Noble, and upcoming Windows RT, Windows plays in smartphones, Intel and ARM tablets and PCs. There is still a rather mixed bag of options with Microsoft, as each device type has its own OS, and the app and developer part of the ecosystem has to be proven. However, Surface is a slick device showing Microsoft can innovate hardware, and the massive base of user, enterprise and software support for Windows will be a force.
In the mobile ecosystem wars there is little room for missteps. Tighter control of the mobile ecosystem, including devices, will intensify the pressure on those who stumble.
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