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Idiot post of the day

Sadly, because I generally enjoy his writing, it’s from Robert Cringely:

“iPhone and Android will be here for the long haul with the question being which of Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry will die?”

Answer: None of them. There are more than 1.25 billion phones sold every year. Even a 1% market share would mean selling more phones than Apple did in 2008. Did Apple die in 2008, thanks to the lack of success of the iPhone? No.

People like Cringely simply do not understand the scale of the phone market worldwide. In 2008, more new phones were sold than the entire number of computers, old and new, that were in use.

Think about that for a second, Bob. Actually, think about it all day. Because then, you might understand that the phone market is not the same as the computer market.

(Image from Sylvar)

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  • Grrrth

    Actually, I agree with Robert Cringely. There is no way that all of those will be ultimately successful.

    Palm are going to die. They bet the company on the Pre, and no one gives a shit. Web OS is a great concept, it just doesn’t work well enough.

    Something has to happen with Windows Mobile. It’s just not up to Android / iPhone standards, and handset makers are ditching it for Android, such as HTC (who are responsible for 80% of Windows Mobile devices). It wouldn’t surprise me if Microsoft bought RIM.

    Symbian was a great mobile OS, but it is simply not good enough, modern enough, or capable enough to challenge. Don’t forget this was developed from the PSION organisers originally (remember them!). Nokia have essentially admitted that Symbian is going to die! Nokia are working on Maemo, a new smartphone OS. The question is, will be do enough, soon enough, to get developer traction. It’s unlikely to be backwards compatible with Symbian, so they don’t have an install base. They are starting from scratch.

    Nokia are also working with Microsoft, and whilst you can’t write either of them off, it has been 3 years since the iPhone was announced, and what have they done to compete? Nothing. Nokia will probably make an Android phone in the next few years, that’s my prediction. And Microsoft will buy someone. Windows Mobile is fucking dead.

    There will obviously be lots of handsets, from lots of makers, but when it comes to smartphones, there will be a small number with decent developer support.

  • RattyUK

    Should be interesting to see what Microsoft have up their sleeve tonight at the CES keynote. Firstly they are rumored to be releasing a slate computer, completely devoid of Apple’s vision so that should be interesting. And, secondly, do you think that they won’t mention where Windows Mobile is going? I mean they will have lots of bells and whistles to show off such as the current state of Project Natal, but the question will be: “Where’s the meat?”

  • Ian Betteridge

    Grrrth, Palm may or may not die, but it won’t be down to lack of growth in the number of phones they sell. “Smartphones” is a fake market, in the sense that’s perfectly possible for everyone to ship more units (as more smartphones overall are sold) while some lose market share. The pie is getting bigger, and with a potential market of 1.25 billion per year, companies can survive and even thrive on very tiny market shares.

    If Microsoft was sensible, they’d buy Palm and turn WebOS into Windows Mobile 7. But that’s unlikely, for lots of other reasons.

    Ratty – If I was Ballmer, I’d be up there with all guns blazing on mobile. So it will be interesting to see what he says…

  • grrrth

    I don’t understand your comment: “Palm may or may not die, but it won’t be down to lack of growth in the number of phones they sell.”

    Actually, that’s exactly why Palm will die. Palm are making a huge loss at the moment, if they don’t sell a lot more phones – if they do not grow – then they will die. Elevation Partners aren’t going to bail them out forever. They cannot survive on their current market share.

    I don’t think ‘smartphones’ is more fake than any other market. There are still basic business metrics to consider in development, manufacturing and distribution. They may be high-margin items (at the moment), but there are still costs.

    In addition to that I think we all agree that smartphones are platforms. For platforms to be successful they need to be supported by developers. There is already anecdotal evidence that some developers are leaving Android because the different handsets are so fractured in specs.

    Apple have 100,000 apps, and over 100,000 registered developers, and have an install base of over 60m units (plus what are likely to be stellar Q1 sales). They are in position #1. Android and Blackberry are #2 and #3. Palm has, what, 1000 apps? And each of those apps have a fraction of the capabilities of the iPhone and Android platforms (especially for games but, in the words of Gruber, even the Facebook app on Web OS looks like a basic Twitter feed).

    So, why are developers going to support a limited platform, with few users (install base), when they can focus on richer targets. It’s just common sense that they won’t. In fact, they aren’t.

    The problem with Palm is that Web OS just isn’t as capable as iPhone OS (Cocoa Touch) and Android. It’s just not. Microsoft won’t gain ANYTHING by buying them. They won’t gain users, an install base, cash, profits, OR technology. And, on a political level, could you ever see Microsoft implementing Web Kit based technology? I don’t think so. Microsoft like proprietary, locked-down, tech that they own and leverage, not Apple-derived open source projects.

    RIM have a massive, growing, installed based of business users, of which a massive amount of them are tied to Microsoft email / corporate systems, via the Blackberry Server add on. And they make a lot of money.

    So, which one is the better target for Microsoft? (who make all of their money in the corporate space).

  • smithsocksimon

    If I was head of Palm, I’d think seriously about scrapping WebOS in favour of Android, though I’d keep the clearly superior WebOS UI.

    Software development could then focus on developing apps — both for the phone and commercially for the Android store.

  • Ian Betteridge


    “I don’t think ’smartphones’ is more fake than any other market. ”

    Phones is a market. Cars is a market.

    “Computers costing over $1000” is not a market. Neither is “phones of a kind that no one can actually agree a definition for”, which is what we usually call “smartphones”.

    “They may be high-margin items (at the moment), but there are still costs”

    They are high margin items, and when they become low margin items, we’ll probably no longer call them smartphones. In fact, this has already happened. When it was released, the LG Viewty was often grouped with smartphones like the N95. Now, it’s a “featurephone” – whatever that means.

  • Grrrth

    It’s nice that you don’t actually disagree with my point.

    So, what you seem to be saying is this:

    “every mobile handset maker will survive because no-one can decide on a perpetually locked definition of a smartphone”. – ??

    Is that right?

    Technology trickles down. A “basic” phone now has the features of a high-end phone from 5 years ago. New features, and new technology, is perpetually being invented. There will always be the latest and greatest mobile phones, with the new features, the new technology. Those high-end phones will always be sold at a premium, but they are not a static target.

    It could be that in 5 years time every phone ever sold is like the iPhone of 2007, even the most “basic” phone, but the iPhone of 2015 will be nothing like it. Just compare the iPod of 2001 to the iPod touch of 2009. Why do you think it’s ever going to be any different? That seems very naive. Consumers – or a sub set of them – will always want the latest and greatest.

    The definition of what makes a smartphone is always moving, but the point is you can never lock it down to a set of features. It’s purely relative to other handsets at the time.

    By 2010 standards the original iPhone from 2007 is not a smartphone (no Exchange, no apps, no copy and paste, etc.), but the iPhone 3GS certainly is a smartphone by today’s standards.

    The Viewty was a very nice phone. But without the features that define smartphones today, it’s just a “feature phone”. Not dumb, but not smart. Mid-range.

    Supercar is a good analogy. A new Ford Focus could rip a 1970’s Ferrari to shreds, but the Focus isn’t a supercar by 2010 standards.

    Are you saying that Palm, et al. will survive because they are just another phone maker? With “feature phones”?

    If that’s what you mean then your argument is still flawed. The Pre is pitched as a smartphone against the iPhone, Android and the rest. And, it’s priced accordingly. And consumers aren’t going for it. Why would they when they can get an iPhone at the same price? I have never, ever, seen a Pre in the wild.

    The problem for Palm is it just isn’t good enough compared to the competition today, and the platform isn’t deep enough to keep pace with Cocoa Touch and Android. So, it’s only going to slip backwards, where it has to deal with Nokia, Samsung, LG et al. who have more dynamic, interesting “feature phones”, and at lower prices.