2015 Mobile OS Outlook

19 Jan 2015

We cannot expect too many new things or surprises in mobile handset business in 2015. We will probably see some companies give up on the mobile phone business and more Chinese companies expand to other markets too. We can say Android, iOS, and Windows Phone are the only operating systems left. The biggest questions are 1) how Samsung’s business develops, 2) what happens to Blackberry, and 3) can Microsoft increase its market share. And can we get some surprises?

If we look at sales numbers and statistics from devices in use, the market shares look quite stable. Android dominates the market, Apple has a significant and quite stable share, and Windows and Blackberry are struggling to have a few percent. But do we have any weak signals or interesting developments that could change this situation?

We cannot expect any game changing new devices in this year. Apple and Google probably focus more on the ecosystem development by bringing new services and especially integrating phones better to several other services like payments and wearable devices. Chinese manufacturers bring better and cheaper devices to market all the time. Samsung is struggling (read Mobile bloodshed -- the next casualty) and it must decide its direction: pure top level hardware or more serious role in software. Sony will probably give up on its mobile phone business this year.

Windows Phone is a more interesting question. Microsoft has got it better and especially after the Nokia acquisition and WP 8.1. We are now expecting to get a new WP version that e.g. brings live folders to the user interface, better camera software and some other usability improvements. We can see some evidence that Microsoft is approaching an Apple style well working, integrated hardware and software. And it looks like they also learn from user feedback: tiles were not such a great idea, users want to tailor the UI more and it might be a good idea to get some things to work similarly as in iOS and Android. Of course for Microsoft it is not only to increase WP’s market share, but really get its Office and enterprise solutions to all operations systems (read MS swings mobile strategy into action with layoffs).

There are speculations that Samsung would acquire Blackberry. Both companies deny the rumors. Could it make sense? Samsung has issues in its mobile business and it is not easy to utilize another company that has its own hardware and operating system. Blackberry still has its own loyal users especially in the finance sector. Blackberry has also done a lot of work to offer better security. It is also basically the only physical QWERTY keyboard phone. There can be demand in the market for Android phones that have the physical keyboard and higher security email solution. But do you need to acquire Blackberry to do that? Probably not, but to get those old-fashion Wall Street and London City guys, it could help.

Apple Watch and payment solutions are the main things for the company in early 2015. In September Apple probably launches new phones, but it is hard to expect any surprises. Apple should make a lot work with its services, Google is much more active in that area. Maybe we cannot yet ignore Microsoft either.

So, we can expect a year of business as usual for mobile phones. But what could be the surprises this year? Windows Phone’s situation and market share are poor. But Microsoft is improving and maybe the new CEO can keep a better pace. WP’s main issue is now the shortage of apps. Windows Phone can surprise us this year and really become the 3rd ecosystem. Another surprise can be that Blackberry gets a new life to offer the keyboard and secure email under another owner. Then we have the question, how deep Samsung dips, whether it follows Nokia’s and Motorola’s spiral of death.

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