Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Smartphone App Wars

Who will win the mobile app store battles and the associated operating system wars?
Samsung will launch a mobile application store in Europe on Sept. 14 for its Omnia smartphones. They join iPhone, Nokia’s Ovi, Rim/Blackberry and Palm Pre stores and as many operating system battles, carrier exclusives and even device showdowns.

In August Samsung released its mobile widget software development kit (SDK) and its Application Seller Site a month earlier. Users will initially be able to select from about 300 apps, including games and e-readers and they predict that this will increase to around 2,000 by the end of the year. Their SDK is different in that it will let developers create widgets for different Samsung phones using different operating systems, including the company's own proprietary OS.

Nokia is the market leader in terms of phones, smartphones and mobile but has struggled to get third-party developers to develop applications for their phones. They are not alone, after all why do you want to develop 4 apps that each have to be maintained and may not all earn out?

Then we have the formidable LG Electronics, which in July launched an online store for mobile phone applications.

Finally we have Microsoft who is hoping the launch in October of its new mobile phone software, will revive its flagging position in this lucrative market. Today they are estimated to have some 9% share against the 14.3% they enjoyed only a year ago. They are behind RIM’s 20.9% and Apple’s growing 13.7% and a long way behind Nokia’s 45%.

Microsoft’s big card is its ability to run Windows Mobile Office productivity apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But is that enough and a strong enough differentiator today? They claim a trusted brand but is it it trusted enough and although they can line up all the big guns in support we think it too late, too tired and somehow lacking. Will it fully support touch and compete with the new touch environment.

What is clear is that consumers need to keep their options open in what is a dynamic market.

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