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iPhone 5: Why I am not excited and where we’re heading next

I’ve spent some time reading about the iPhone 5 and I must say it feels more like an iPhone 4S+. For the first time I am not excited to get a major release of an iPhone. That said, I think it’s more a function of smartphones maturing and less about Apple doing a bad job.

With Apple giving developers more horsepower, expect to see a big push around apps. Yes there are millions of apps in the App Store but very few are integrated into our day-to-day lives and even fewer are integrated into the hardware we use; cars, home appliances, sporting equipment, health equipment, home/office security, access control, remote controls etc. This is now possible due to Bluetooth low energy which should replace things like Ant+, Zigbee, IR and other near range wireless standards.

This is now the time where the market is going to get interesting as we are going to see a further push towards ecosystems. Here’s how I think it’s likely to go down:

  • Apple is the clear market leader with a lot of iPhone users now using iPads and Macs. My predication is that OSX (Apples Mac operating system) is going to merge its iOS (the operating system for iPhone and iPad) for a more seamless experience which will lead to further cross device adoption.
  • Samsung is making a strong play in the ecosystem market and has a clear edge over Apple in the home automation space. I see the Google partnership becoming stronger and leading to new innovations.
  • Sony could make a strong play if it gets over its ego and does not try to launch a proprietary technology as it has done historically.
  • Microsoft/Nokia is going to make a lot of marketing hype about Windows 8 but execution will let them down. They will see a slight increase in market share but no more than 10%.
  • RIM (Blackberry) will be bought within 24 months.

I am not a big fan of Microsoft: it’s becoming clear that a company which gets 60%+ of its revenue from PCs and does not have a compelling smartphone or tablet offering is in a difficult position. I recently had dinner with a CIO of a large multi-national with a user base of 40 000 people and he agreed with me. According to him it has little new value because of strong competition in the enterprise space from companies like SAP, SalesForce.com and cloud based solutions, so it spends its time checking for licensing compliance. That is clearly a defensive business practice.

Another challenge for Microsoft is the trend of companies not caring about the end point hardware and making this the user’s choice, which is a win/win. If you let users own their device (laptop, tablet, phone) and give them a technology allowance, they are more self-sufficient from a support prospective and take better care of the equipment.

With cloud-based solutions the end device is less important these days which makes this strategy increasingly viable. Microsoft now faces a new challenge: 95% of its Windows mobile sales are through Nokia, which is a lose lose situation as the Redmond-based giant does not control the hardware like Apple nor does it have a OEM community like Android.

The logical thing would be for Microsoft to buy Nokia and possibly RIM (for its patents) and try to make one last play in the market. Don’t get me wrong, it will be in business for a long time but with 60% of its revenue in serious jeopardy it will be a materially different company in years to come.

Security is still the limiting factor for companies adopting this user owned device strategy but recent innovations are overcoming this and I believe that companies will have more control over information in the future. We are starting to see things like cloud-based single sign on technologies which make granting or revoking access for easier, cloud-based storage with central admin, remote lock and erase of devices and biometric access control (Apple just bought a Biometric company).

My view is the market will be dominated by Android with 60% market share with Apple losing a bit of market share in the medium term and stabilising around 28%. After the initial hype of Windows 8, Microsoft will stabilise at around 8% market share, with the rest of the market shared by niche players.

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