Who Will Be Impacted if Windows Phone Thrives?

Microsoft’s Windows Phone won’t hit the shelves until next month, but the OS is already drawing accolades. Kevin pointedly noted that the platform illustrates why Nokia and Research In Motion should consider dumping Symbian and BlackBerry OS (respectively) and starting with a fresh OS. Onlookers, meanwhile, are already claiming that Windows Phone is strong enough to challenge the two dominant operating systems in wireless, Android and iOS.

So if Windows Phone is a massive success, who will win and who will lose? Here are a few suggestions:

Research In Motion. RIM is already seeing its once-dominant hold on the enterprise slip, and BlackBerry 6.0 has failed to live up to claims of being “a quantum leap” over newer, more advanced mobile operating systems. If the new OS is business-worthy, it could replace BlackBerry as the platform of choice in the enterprise. Yes, QNX could eventually play the role of RIM’s redeemer, but Windows Phone may gain a substantial following in the corporate world before BlackBerry’s replacement OS finally comes to market in smartphones.

Android. There’s no denying the astounding momentum of Google’s mobile OS, but its rapid growth and open-source nature have given rise to well-documented fragmentation problems. Microsoft has wisely required its hardware partners to stick to a single program by mandating specific features (such as three hardware buttons) and is assuming the role of quality assurance enforcer for all supporting handsets coming to market. While that surely is a pain for manufacturers of Windows Phone devices, it will help avoid the headaches that will increasingly plague Android as its footprint grows.

Hewlett-Packard. The manufacturer made headlines earlier this year with its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm and its webOS, which has garnered rave reviews but failed to find much of an audience. HP says it is preparing to release new webOS phones early next year, but the clock is ticking and the dance floor just got more crowded. If Windows Phone takes off out of the starting gate, it would be a devastating blow for a platform that was at the center of HP’s acquisition.

Motorola. Microsoft has lined up manufacturing partners HTC, LG and Samsung. Even Sony Ericsson — which has made many missteps as the smartphone era evolved — appears to be making Windows Phone a priority. But Motorola dropped Windows Mobile altogether last year in favor of Android, and that move has resulted in a recent patent-infringement suit from — you guessed it — Microsoft. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha said the company is still “open to finding ways to work with Microsoft,” but Microsoft seems none too pleased with the manufacturer’s move to back Android in such a big way. So don’t expect a Motorola-made Windows Phone phone anytime soon.

T-Mobile USA. T-Mo has done a fair job of shoring up its smartphone lineup, but it has yet to enjoy a hit on the scale of, say, Verizon’s Droid from Motorola. Microsoft’s name alone ensures Windows Phone will enjoy a high-profile launch — look at how much attention the OS is getting already — and Redmond has the bankroll to put some marketing muscle behind its new mobile flagship. The carrier should help itself by investing some advertising dollars to tie its name to Windows Phone, but simply being part of the launch will be a huge boost if the platform takes off.

Question of the week

Which handset makers lose out if Windows Phone is a hit?
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Colin Gibbs

Colin Gibbs

Mobile Curator Gigaom Network

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4 Comments Subscribers to comment
  1. Michael Scharf Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Suspending disbelief and assuming your premise…

    Losers:
    HP – Microsoft will punish HP for their lack of support
    Verizon & Sprint – 6 to 9 months before a CDMA phone is ready
    Apple – iPhone penetration is beginning to top out. At least until Verizon iPhone hits the streets (one can only hope it will soon)
    Nokia – Accelerated decline in Symbian market share and zero space for MeeGo phones when they hit the market.

    Winners:
    HTC, Samsung, LG – Anything that continues the increased penetration of smart phones will help these three.

    On the cusp:
    RIM: Has been very successful in the enterprise so far
    Intel: Does anyone know who makes the chip used in the WinPhone?
    T-Mo: Androids champion so far. But if they can do a deal with Microsoft, could drive more subscribers as their HSPA+ network rolls out.
    AT&T: Do they care if their subscriber carries a WinPhone, iPhone, BB, or Android phone? Their network sucks no matter what phone gets used.

    1. One more winner… The advertising partners that Microsoft will spend $1 Billion with during the first six months or so of WinPhone’s launch.

    2. Thanks for some insightful thoughts, Michael. The only player on your list that I’ll vehemently argue about is RIM — I think that Windows Phone simply can’t succeed without making a serious dent in the enterprise market, which means taking a chunk of the BlackBerry business.

      Great point re: MSFT’s advertising partners. Windows Phone may not succeed, but it appears that won’t be for a lack of marketing dollars.

  2. From a developer mindshare perspective, I feel it really is a “battle for 3rd” at the moment when it comes to smartphone platforms. iOS seems to be the first choice due to greater perceived chance to monetise, followed by Android with its’ simpler distribution process.

    After that, if the developer is to build on a 3rd platform (and that is more uncommon than common), at the moment it comes down to RIM vs Symbian vs Windows Phone (and then a bunch of others, such as Web OS, Bada, etc).

    ^^^There’s an opportunity here for Windows Phone 7 to help Microsoft cement that 3rd slot in the short term. So the ones that may lose out the most if that happens, in my opinion, would be Symbian (i.e. Nokia), RIM and the smartphone platforms with smaller market share.^^^

    I know Symbian still has the largest global market share by volume for smartphone platforms, but this hasn’t translated into the equivalent developer mindshare.

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