Apple, Android… Microsoft? What?! Yes we all love our iPhones or HTC’s running Ice Cream Sandwich, but how many of us would think of getting a Microsoft phone? If you’re like many people, you run to Apple and Google due to a certain cool factor. You embrace the culture around the operating systems and products, and jump into their camp loyally. Sure, there are other smartphones out there, like the clunky Blackberry, but to be “with it” most people want either Apple or Google (yes, I’m currently in the Android camp, but have my fair share of Apple products).
One mobile phone provider is taking a major gamble on there being is room for a third mobile ecosystem beyond Apple and Google though. Nokia has seen its market share drop precipitously over the past year, and they are now banking on Microsoft to catapult them back to the forefront of the mobile market. At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona a little over a month ago, Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elopboldly said that he fully believes there is space in the market for a Microsoft mobile ecosystem and he believes Nokia is now positioned to shake-up the marketplace. He showcased Nokia’s sleek new Lumia, which has the Windows OS on it and said it would be a completely new approach to apps and your mobile experience.
I went over to the Nokia section at the MWC Exhibition to check out the Lumia for myself and left fairly impressed. It certainly was a different way of organizing apps – not the basic buttons and boxes you find on both iPhones and Androids. Instead it categorized things by how you work and play; functionalities over boxes. Also, I must admit I liked the integration of Microsoft Office into the phone. Editing Word documents and accessing Excel files on other smartphones is a major pain, so this seems to be a clear advantage of the Microsoft system. Another potentially unique feature of a Microsoft phone is the integration of Xbox into the system. Xbox is probably the “coolest” thing going for Microsoft right now, so bringing this popular gaming feature to the phones is certainly going to be a selling point.
As many say, competition really only begins with three, so perhaps there is room for a third mobile ecosystem. I am still a bit skeptical it will be Microsoft though, but they certainly have the resources to throw at it and Nokia is a big partner with considerable mobile reach. Nokia has also said they will work to grow a community of developers around the Microsoft mobile platform, which will be essential if they want killer apps. I think the relatively closed system Microsoft is advocating creates an obstacle for developers to create apps for the system though. In many ways, Android took off because it was a more open platform, which is in stark contrast to Apple. Ask any mobile developer and they will say they already struggle to develop for both iOS and Android, so why would they want to develop for a third system?
The new entrants also have a fairly big mountain to climb. According to Gartner research, Android currently has a 50% market share in smartphones and Apple is around 15%, but they aim for only the very high-end. Nokia is still the leader in mobile device sales though, at around 24%, but this is down considerably from 2010.
Do you think there is room for a third mobile ecosystem? Will Microsoft mobile be this third system? If you’re a developer, would you welcome a third option? Let us at Digital Qatar know. For now, I plan to stick with my Android, but I am eyeing up the latest iPhone for my next phone. Perhaps Nokia can change my mind – we shall see!