Smartphones and Beyond

symbian.gifOver the last few weeks I have been reading the 800 page book by David Wood on Smartphones and beyond: Lessons from the remarkable rise and fall of Symbian.

It’s fascinating reading especially if, like me, you developed Symbian apps and worked at Symbian. It’s useful reading even if you aren’t in any way linked to Symbian as many of the learnings are just as applicable today. Don’t let the 800 pages put you off. There are lots of press releases, blog and news articles that you don’t really have to read entirely and the latter portion of the book hasn’t much to do with Symbian or necessarily mobile at all and delves into David’s other passion of predicting what might lie ahead. In fact, if you are interested in this kind of stuff you are better skipping this part and instead reading ‘Anticipating 2025′ which is part authored by David and includes similar material.

Back to the Symbian book, it describes how Symbian’s loss of control of the UI, to Nokia, affected the OS. It describes the difficult situation when your customers (licensees in Symbian’s case) aren’t the end user (network operators, consumers). It also shows how there can be conflicts of interest when your shareholders are your customers and how they can prevent the company from exploring what could be more profitable or successful areas. It also demonstrates how it’s easy to under-estimate competitors who have taken up recent easy-to-deploy commoditised solutions for which you have historically had to use a customised solution to which you are now tied. It describes how large software is difficult and differentiates between team agile and enterprise agile. The book also shows it’s possible to consider creating custom solutions for customers but to make them pay through consultancy.

There’s a useful observation that recruiting the best is important. If your don’t then when your recruits recruit further people there can be downward spiral as people recruit weaker and weaker people so as to protect themselves. The book shows how technical debt and strategic debt can cripple a large company (Nokia) thus advantaging faster-moving newcomers such as Google and Apple. There’s also a possible explanation of why Stephen Elop killed Symbian so quickly rather than slowly, a strategy that lead Nokia to financial ruin. You can also learn how David’s openness, while representing the ‘open’ Symbian Foundation, caused him to be asked to leave his job.

Many of the insights can be used to provide advice to today’s startups. For example, if you are thinking you can’t compete with an incumbent, there’s a possibility you can. They will be much much slower, especially if you can use commoditised solutions while they use custom solutions.

Areppim Mobile OS Market Share

areppim.pngAreppim has a chart showing how OS market share has changed over time. The chart is based on data from StatCounter Global Stats which means it’s based on browser views (user agents) as opposed to OS device shipments.
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Over the last year, iOS market share has been stable while Android has increased at a monthly rate of 2.17%.

As these numbers are based on browser views they might better represent the installed base than OS device shipments. However, with the trend for people using apps rather than the web, measuring OS market share this way might have it’s own inherent biases.

Market Share vs Installed Base

guardian.gifThe Guardian newspaper blog has a thought provoking post on why an 80% market share might only represent half of smartphone users. The main insight is that the latest sales don’t necessarily reflect the installed base. This is something I have previously mentioned in the context of stats, fragmentation and as long ago as 2009 and 2008. The same reasoning might also be applied to PCs.

The best indication you can obtain is one that measures use, in the geographic region you are targeting, for the type of app you intend to create. Obviously, this might be a chicken and egg situation as you might not have created your app yet. However, if you are re-writing an existing app you might actually have the numbers and that’s where it get more interesting.

On a recent project, in the UK, we has usage across smartphone devices prior to a re-write. What was interesting was the use was very similar to the current reported sales shares. Why, I don’t know. This was just one case, for one type of app so it probably doesn’t prove much statistically. However, it did make me question if, when people buy a new phone, they tend to experiment more with new apps that might cause the installed base to be less significant.

Gartner Technology Trends for 2013

gartner136.gifMany companies doing development are looking at the ‘here and now’. I previously observed how successful products sometimes project the technical and market roadmap to the next few years and try to fill a gap. In mobile, things change very quickly, timescales are compressed and it’s rarely sensible to try to project more than a year or two into the future. So what are the trends for the say the next year?

Gartner identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013. First of all notice Gartner is talking about "Technology Trends" not "Mobile Trends". The fact that many of Gartner’s trends directly or indirectly implicate mobile demonstrates how important mobile has become.

I will leave you to read the press release. However, there are just two statements I find harder to believe will come to fruition…

"However, only 20 percent of those handsets are likely to be Windows phones."

20% of smartphones sold in mature markets in 2013 will be Windows Phones? They must be dreaming. I believe it’s more likely to be single digit percentages, as now. To discover why, see my previous post on Windows 8.

"However, there will be a long term shift away from native apps to Web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable."

How will HTML5 become more capable? I can’t yet see how (or why) Apple and Google, the current browser gatekeepers, might make HTML5 have capabilities closer to those of native apps. Is it in their interest? How have mobile browsers’ capability improved over the last five years let alone the next five years? Don’t get me wrong, I would like it to happen but I don’t yet see the commercial drivers for this. If you want to help make this actually happen then check out CoreMob.

Smartphone OS Installed Base

communitiesdominatebrands.gifThe indomitable Tomi Ahonen shares some stats from his Phone Book 2012. Of particular interest is the installed base of smartphones, by operating system.

Note that this is the installed base, not recent sales, which means the numbers are more useful for people interested in trying to determine what platforms they should support. Further, they are world numbers which is important as some US-only research, not clearly disclosed as such, tends to be misleading.

  

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Canalys Q2 2012

canalys.gifCanalys released their Q2/2012 figures while I was away last week. I take more interest in Canalys reporting because a) They are World figures (I dislike the way some other researchers quote US figures as if they are World numbers) and b) The numbers are based on shipments and not on something such as use of an ad network that is bound to have some geographical or mobile platform bias.

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Some observations… 

  • Android went from 47.6% to 68.1% market share over a year
  • Windows Phone is definitely a failure now
  • Blackberry has a low market share of only 5.4%
I believe we have now reached the stage where it’s not really worth developing new apps on BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone. It’s now iOS (for revenue from paid apps) and Android for reach.

Mobile Stats, Android and Fragmentation

gartner136.gifThe theme today seems to be mobile stats and different ways to view them. First take a look at Gartner’s Q1/2012 stats released today. The interesting part for mobile developers is the breakdown by operating system…

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Android has made a large gain in market share. Symbian is dying fast and Microsoft has less share than Bada that, according to rumour, will be retired soon. If the Gartner stats aren’t enough for you, take a look at the Google sponsored Our Mobile Planet, that allows you to create your own charts based on consumer stats. Finally, if your focus is Android then visit the opensignalmaps fascinating analysis of Android fragmentation and then read how Google is shifting tack to try to reduce fragmentation.

The Enterprise and Mobile Platform Security

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Dimensional Research has a recent free report on The Impact of Mobile Devices on Information Security (pdf) that highlights some of the issues related to enterprise device security. The report is based on a survey of 768 respondents responsible for securing company access in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

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The report shows the dramatic growth in the use of personal devices at work, how iOS is the most used mobile platform, Android is the most risky platform and that mobile devices are driving an increase in security risk. The main problems are seen to be lack of employee awareness, insecure web browing and use of insecure WiFi. Careless employees are seen to be a greater risk than hackers.

Of particular interest to mobile developers targeting the enterprise is a chart showing the most used mobile platforms connecting to corporate networks…

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The top platforms are iOS, BlackBerry and Android. This is a relatively large, quick turnaround from when, only several years ago, Windows Mobile and Symbian (and BlackBerry) used to be the top platforms in enterprise.