Enterprises are rapidly heading for a two-platform smartphone world, similar to the two-platform PC world they currently occupy.
Some indicators: Record-breaking iPhone 5 preorders. IDC numbers showing that Apple and Android together control 85 percent of the smartphone market. Continued erosion of market share of the other competitors. Forget Microsoft; the big question now is whether Android or iOS will be preferred by business users.
Earlier this week, comScore Inc. released August market share numbers showing that 52.6 percent of US smartphones were Androids; 34.6 ran Apple's iOS; and Microsoft fell from a 4.0 percent share in May to 3.6 percent in August.
Enterprises also can expect to see iOS numbers rise, given how the iPhone 5 broke sales records during its first weekend.
What’s behind these figures? The more users a platform has, the more apps and accessories will become available for that device, and the more useful it will be for businesses as well.
Last month, analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research predicted
that Apple and Android will have 98 percent of the market by the end of this year. The reason? None of the other smartphone contenders can boast the same level of adoption and the same volume of apps.
On September 13, antivirus vendor Trend Micro and Osterman Research announced a report
showing that enterprises are getting on the iPhone and Android bandwagons, too. Business users were the one remaining hope for Windows and BlackBerry -- and it's clear that businesses, too, are losing faith: BlackBerry's market share among small and midsized businesses fell from 26.9 percent in 2011 to 19.8 percent this year. Windows dropped from 8.6 percent to 4.6 percent. In contrast, the iPhone rose from 9.9 percent to 13 percent. Android’s share rose from 13.1 percent to 20.2 percent.
Trend Micro also recently ranked the iPhone as having almost caught up to BlackBerry in terms of security, providing even more motivation for enterprises and government agencies to make the switch.
And a quick recap of the global August market share numbers from IDC, if you missed them:
- Android and Apple iOS market share went up from 65.7 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to 85 percent in the second quarter of 2012.
- BlackBerry’s market share dropped from 11.5 percent to 4.8 percent.
- Nokia's Symbian dropped from 16.9 percent to 4.4 percent market share.
- Windows gained only about 1 percent -- from 2.3 percent to 3 percent, despite a heavy marketing push and a deal with Nokia.
Vendors competing against Apple and Android are trying to sell their smartphones by marketing features such as battery life, or a prettier screen, or faster processors. These are nice ways to compare phones that run on the same platform -- to choose between Android phones, for example, or different generations of the iPhone. But you can't market a platform that way. What users want are apps.
Apple now has more than 700,000 apps in its App Store. Android has over 500,000 apps in its Google Play marketplace. Windows is a distant third, having reached 100,000 apps in June.
As the BYOD trend continues and consumer choices drive business adoption of smartphones, enterprises will have even more of a stake in Apple and Android platforms. And those firms that invest in custom app development don't want to find out that the platform they picked is a dead end, and that they have to migrate all their applications and re-train their users and their support staff.
So unless Microsoft is able to pull off an October surprise and come up with a compelling reason for companies -- and consumers -- to switch to their platform, that 98 percent prediction for iOS and Android will be more and more likely.
— Maria Korolov is president of Trombly International, an editorial services company that provides coverage of emerging technologies and markets. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years.