It may be going unnoticed, but Apple is quietly going about, continually gaining mobile market share, building an ever-larger iOS customer base world-wide. If anyone is noticing, it's Apple’s competitors of iPhone and iPad. Samsung, LG, HTC, Nokia, Motorola and others are doing their best to keep pace. Ironically, it is Apple’s competition that are proving to be their own worst enemy.
Maturing markets typically lead to consolidation and uniformity, but this is not what is taking place in the mobile space. In recent years, only Apple and Samsung have been profitable within the smartphone and tablet markets, leaving HTC, LG and others searching for ways to make a buck, which is leading to a massive fracturing of the mobile OS market.
China’s leading search engine company, Alibaba, is entering the market with its own mobile Yun OS (AKA Aliyun). The OS is heavily geared towards cloud computing. Instead of downloading and storing apps and files on mobile devices, they are stored via the Yun OScloud-based architecture.
Yun OS is based on a core Android OS, but Alibaba has completely forked Android, stripping Google of any monetary opportunities by replacing Google search, the Android Marketplace and any Google opportunities with their own solutions. Yun OS is a completely walled garden initiative which mirrors Amazon’s OS direction. The difference is that Yun OS will be available for any hardware maker willing to give it a go. In economically challenged regions of the world, Yun OS may become an attractive play for many hardware makers looking to save a buck wherever possible.
Another OS set to spread out amongst the open source world is Sailfish. Jolla Ltd. purchased Nokia's MeeGo OS a while back, and created Sailfish, which has been well developed for Intel architecture on top of a Linux foundation. Sailfish is not thought to be an imminent threat to Android or other mobile OSes, but should Intel get behind Sailfish to promote their chipset, it could quickly find traction.
Another Intel-based OS is Tizen. Unlike Sailfish Intel is strongly supporting Tizen OS, as Samsung is strongly behind Tizen's promotion. The OS is likely to become Android’s largest competition in the coming years, as Samsung recently launched the Samsung Z, a Tizen OS and Intel CPU smartphone. How strongly Samsung pushes this new platform is still unknown, but Google, who has not been successful in selling their own smartphone or tablet hardware, can only watch as their OS hardware leader moves in a new direction.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone was recently updated to 8.1, but unfortunately for Microsoft, no one in the corporate or consumer space seems to care. According to Nielsen, Microsoft’s line of Nokia phones only managed 3% U.S. market share for Q1 of 2014, and the numbers are not much better in Europe or abroad. Microsoft's deep pockets guarantee a "forever push" for Windows Phone. With Android's fractured OS deployment, should Samsung's Tizen products prove successful, Microsoft’s ability to stay in the market with heavy advertising could allow Nokia devices and Windows Phone to slowly squeeze its way into the mobile space with confusion abounding.
Apple thrives when there is confusion and industry noise. Converting more users world-wide onto the iOS platform via the iPhone 6 and updated iPads this Fall is nearly all but certain. Rather than Apple faltering or losing share to a cheaper, single entity, Apple looks to gain in a mobile space that is becoming ever more fractured.
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