Part 1: Current Situation
Let’s start out with Apple.
Apple has been a solid brand in the mobile industry ever since they started. We’ve seen iPhones and iPads, all ranging from decent to excellent quality devices. Of course, every new system has its issues, but Apple always played on the ball pretty quickly. They deliver high quality hardware, but a bit lackluster software in certain areas.
I’ll give you a simple example. The menu of your iPhone or iPad. It’s not too easy to change the layout of things, or to customize it, as they say. Apple has put up certain restrictions in what you can and cannot do, with the standard software. Of course, smart people have found a way around this, but still, charging bucketloads of money for a high quality product without being able to add a personal touch? A bit strange if you ask me….
Another software related issue that held me back from ever buying an iPhone or an iPad, is the necessity to use iTunes. iTunes is a great program, don’t get me wrong. I use it on a bi-weekly basis for my iPod. However, I expected more from apple in regards to their iPhones and iPads. Any media you might want to load on the internal memory of said devices, requires iTunes. Up to a certain degree, i can understand the need to use an additional program.
But iTunes is so clunky to use. It’s slow at times. It takes ages to complete file transfers. It doesn’t even allow you to keep some original media formats, because it has to be converted first. All in all, for me personally, this s a rather negative aspect of the otherwise excellent products. I just prefer to get things done properly, fast, and hassle free.
Next up, we got Google, with the Android OS.
Google has become a household brand to anyone even remotely connected to internet or technology. They have come a long way, however, they also still have quite a long way to go. I’m an Android user myself (not necessarily a fanboi though), and I like the state Android is in.
It doesn’t fill all my needs though. I’m a media person. None of the Android OSes, being it official releases or customized ROM, can fully satisfy me. There is a light at the end of the tunnel i think, but we’ll have to eagerly await and see what the future holds in store for us.
The biggest downside of the Android OS is this: Gingerbread is fine for smartphones,however not all models will see an (official) Gingerbread version. For tablets, Honeycomb is an excellent piece of software, but not all tablets get an upgrade to Honeycombs, which is supposed to be THE Android OS until we get Ice Cream Sandwich to get a “unified experience from both worlds”.
In this regard, Apple is more consistent in making a complete OS to cover that certain device’s needs and strengths. I’m pretty sure Ice Cream Sandwich (from what I’ve seen so far) makes a big step in the right direction. But there’s still work to be done after that. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, we’ll come back to Ice Cream Sandwich later on.
This all brings us to Blackberry. Where to start on this matter?
Blackberry has been a norm for business users, and also a fair share of non-business users, for years. Everyone had to own a Blackberry to ensure an optimal mobile experience on their smartphones, or their tablets. And Blackberry still delivers some excellent business functionality on its devices. If it works properly, that is.
I’m sure you have all heard about the recent Blackberry outage, which left most (if not all) its users worldwide without e-mail and internet services for a few days. We’re not talking about a few hundred people here folks, we’re talking about a GLOBAL OUTAGE of the most used services on a smartphone or tablet. After everything was sorted, they tried to make up for this by giving everyone “over one hundred dollars worth of premium applications for free”.
Now, let’s be honest here, how many of you had 3 or more useful premium apps in that package? Basically, most of you got diddly squat. Which means Blackberry only made up to the business users, if they actually had any use for the premium apps, that is. All other users got left in the cold. A recent survey pointed out that 60% of current Blackberry users will not sign up for a new Blackberry device after their contract expires. Ouch!
On a brighter note, this will not be the end of Blackberry, nor RIM. But the same applies to Blackberry as it does for Google: set a step in the right direction, and keep pushing forward from that point on. If you want people to stay with Blackberry, or even attract new customers, you’ll have to get your act together rather sooner than later.
Last but not least, we have Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.
This could actually be the dark horse in this race in my opinion. Windows Mobile has been around for a while, hasn’t achieved any great successes, but it hasn’t been put out of business by the other competitors either. It’s always been around, and trust me, it will be around for much longer after competitors might have disappeared into obscurity.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, or Windows Phone as it has been formally known as, has been a synonym for quality user experiences (mostly at least), combined with decent hardware, in a trust Windows-esque environment. Windows Phone has always been aimed at the customers, and not necessarily at enterprises, compared to Blackberry’s RIM.
After facing cancellation in development in 2004, Microsoft reorganised the Windows Mobile Group, leading to the first, albeit interim,Windows Mobile launch in 2009. Things didn’t start off well, because Windows Mobile wasn’t compatible with any Windows Phone applications. This was to blame on a lack of resources and time.
Eventually, the naming of the OS changed to Windows Phone 7. (Sounds catchy, don’t you think?) As of this writing, Microsoft has sealed a deal with Nokia (yes, they are still around) to distribute Windows Phone 7 on a new line of smartphones coming to a place near you. However, those exact places are still undisclosed as of now. You have to love a bit of mystery people!
Part 2: The future?
In my opinion, this fatal four-way will lead to a three-horse race, with the other player sitting in the seats watching on and slowly biding their masterfully skilled return plan to the scene. I’ll explain my future vision of mobile world:
The top two brands will remain Apple, with their iOS, and Google, with their Android OS. Both companies seem to be heading down the same path in terms of software development, user experience, and hardware upgrades. However, Apple still has a big head start, because they control all aspects of the manufacturing and development process.
Android will keep on increasing mobile devices’ sales (not shipped units, actual sales), but remain a bit behind Apple’s undisputed leadership of the current market. A twist for the leadership might happen at some point in the future, but I wouldn’t expect it in the first years. However, slowly yet steadily, we will see the market evening out.
Windows Mobile will be appealing to most low-end, non-technical users. They have a line of decent smartphones coming up, which are easy to use with decent hardware under the hood, produced by Nokia. Not everyone wants to pay big money for a smartphone, and most certainly not everyone needs all functions available on iOS or Android smartphones or tablets. Will we ever see Windows Mobile on a tablet? Only time will tell, but it would be a smart decision in my opinion.
Blackberry’s RIM will ultimately be left behind in years to come if they don’t step up their game towards both regular consumers, and enterprises. They may very well leave the mobile market altogether, and never be heard from again in this regard. Or they could surprise us all and become the number one company in the business. Who can tell?
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