Does OS Market Share Matter?

gartner136.gifGartner has new research that compares sales of PCs, tablets and smartphones across the respective operating systems. The headline is that tablet sales are slowing. However, does it matter?

The ever insightful Benedict Evans also has a new post where he explains that we are in the uncharted territory where a minority market share is still very large. He talks of the potential fallacy of "winner (platform) takes all" and suggests that we should look at other things such as the geographic region we are targeting.

Benedict talks a lot about developer revenues and geographic region when choosing a ‘mobile first’ platform and concludes…

"It isn’t so much that ‘maket share doesn’t matter’ (the mantra of Apple fans for decades’) as that you need to think about what kind of market share, where, and whether that matters."

I’d advise you to think and analyse even deeper. I find the emphasis on app revenues and market share slightly concerning. People should be think more about the benefit to their company. This benefit can take many forms. Whether an app is financially viable depends on the kind of app/company as much as it does the platform.

Taking Benedict’s examples of Citibank, Tesco and Carrefour they don’t even sell their apps nor use store in-app purchasing. The fact that iOS users are more affluent probably doesn’t matter for Tesco and Carrefour as iOS customers might be shopping at, at least in the UK, John Lewis and Waitrose anyway. Conversely, I very much doubt many Citibank customers use Android and they would prefer iOS. The key thing here is that these are hunches and guesses.

You need to assess what platform to use on a case-by-case basis and do some market research beforehand as to what devices your users are using and whether they would access your product/service via an app, smartphone, tablet or indeed anything else.

Back to the Gartner headline that tablet sales are slowing. Does it matter? Sales are still of a similar order to PCs and it’s still a large market. What’s probably just as important is whether your end users would access via a tablet and if so, what kind of tablet are they using?

App Purchase/Subscription Insights

branchfire.pngBranchfire have a new US mobile app study of 2,042 adults, conducted by by Harris Poll on app-buying habits. 76% of people download apps while 57% have never paid for an app. 70% of people have downloaded more than 10 apps. The study also gives useful information on highest amounts paid for apps, monthly app subscription by category and subscription pricing thresholds.

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It’s interesting that people are open to subscriptions as this gives longer term revenue for developers. The study says that streaming and movies are the top types of app people are willing to pay for via a subscription. These are the kind of things that can exist and be consumed outside of the phone and be accessible via other means, for example the desktop. The app is just a gateway to consumption (and payment). The value is seen as the content rather than the app. This is probably a good indicator of whether it’s viable to use app subscription in a particular app.

The Future of Apple Pay and NFC

apple.gifI have been analysing Apple Pay to determine if it’s likely to accelerate mobile payment in general and the use of NFC. FirstPartner have an explanation how Apple Pay Works and Penrillian explain how the market isn’t open yet.

The initial implementation is US only, supports only 1.5% of US merchants, relies on the unpopular Apple Passbook and will only work on newer devices containing NFC. Hence, in the short term it won’t be used by many people. More importantly, the implementation is currently closed in that it only allows NFC payments via Apple. It isn’t possible for third parties to use NFC to build more universal, ubiquitous payment solutions. While the essential building blocks for ‘universal’ NFC-based systems across Android/iOS will soon be in place, such systems are blocked by Apple’s strategies.

NFC isn’t just about payment. It can be used in security, authentication, stock control and a myriad of contextual triggering apps, many in the growing realm of the Internet of Things (IoT). All these possibilities of using NFC are closed on iOS for now. However, I suspect that as with apps, when initially Apple said there would be no native apps and only web apps, they will have to open things up. A universal payments system is too compelling and it’s incomprehensible that Apple will stay closed in this area for so little apparent gain. The Internet of Things needs NFC as well as Bluetooth LE (iBeacons). I believe Apple will see themselves under increasing pressure from many directions to open up the NFC APIs.

Update: Adam Cohen-Rose has pointed me to an interesting article by Clover that describes how the network-side token system was proposed/implemented by the payment networks (Mastercard, Visa). There’s no reason why this couldn’t be, and probably will be, implemented on say Android. This suggests a ‘universal’ system might be viable provided it uses a similar network-side token system.

Update: In an email to Cult of Mac, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed that NFC chip on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is only for use with Apple Pay. Like Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, Apple is keeping its NFC restricted from developers, at least for its first year.

Update: Mark Ranta asks Where’s the Beef? and hopes Apple Pay is just the first (baby) step.

Update: Teardown shows NFC chip is from NXP.

Update: Why Apple Pay Won’t Work.  

Comprehensive Mobile Device Usage Report (and data)

scientiamobile.pngScientiamobile has a MOVR report for April to July 2014. It’s a free report (pdf) based on WURFL and WIT usage data. It gives information on smartphone and tablet use across manufacturers, devices, operating systems, screens size and countries. 
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The report covers only a small subset of the raw data that’s also available as csv and JSON data. The data is useful if you wish to analyse usage in a specific country or for a class of devices.

IDC Tablet Shipments Q2 2014

idc.gifIDC has the latest Q2 2014 tablets shipments. The market declined a little by 1.5% with Apple and Acer seeing the larger market share losses. Lenovo saw the largest market share percentage gain. However, a large percentage gain of not a lot (2.4%) is still not a lot (3.3%).

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IDC say the market is being impacted by the rise of large-screen smartphones and longer than anticipated ownership cycles. 

Strategy Analytics Tablet Shipments

strategyanalystics.gifStrategy Analytics have published new research for global tablet shipments in Q1 2014. Total shipments reached 57.6 million devices with Android taking 66 percent share and Apple 28 percent.

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[If you are wondering, the black cell should read 19.5 – not sure why it’s black on the Strategy Analytics site]

What’s more interesting than the Android/iOS shares is the fact that year on year growth has slowed from 83% to 19%. Extrapolating up the shipments for 2014 gives an order of magnitude of 200 million devices. Maybe tablet sales are plateauing at around the same order of magnitude as PC sales? In this case, tablets will never achieve anywhere near the number of shipments that smartphones (about 10x as much) have achieved. 

iOS and UIQ

apple.gifEvery time Apple starts a new patent trial I think how Apple wasn’t that innovative in that some aspects of iOS were found in Symbian’s touch screen OS UIQ. However, it’s my belief that Apple’s deserved success came through being able to cleverly commercialise the innovations when others had failed. 

I have previously mentioned how tapping on something such as a telephone number or address to cause an appropriate action isn’t new, was found in UIQ and is almost certainly prior art. In fact, actioning (as opposed to tapping – because we had no touch screens) an item and performing an appropriate action was an early Psion innovation.

Today, John Pagonis, an ex-Symbian employee mentioned on Twitter that Steve Jobs had a UIQ phone and even had a licence to the Symbian UIQ source for evaluation. This licence forbid Apple from pursuing its own mobile OS. John mentioned he knows this because he was sitting near the account manager who was responsible for the Apple account. This tends to explain how some aspects of UIQ ended up in iOS. Many innovations, whether from Apple or Samsung, are based on previous innovations.

UPDATE: As ex-Symbian Keith Playford mentions on twitter, UIQ owed more to Newton and Palm than iOS owed to UIQ. Symbian even had ex-Apple Scott Jenson on-board.

Gartner Tablet Sales

gartner136.gifGartner’s latest tablet sales numbers show that Android tablets sales exceeded iOS tablet sales for the first time in 2013. Android now has a 61.9% market share while iOS market share has decreased from 52.8% to 36%.

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As with smartphones, Gartner says smaller low-cost (7") tablets are driving growth. Apple say they won’t go this small because this small size doesn’t make for a good product.