The first quarter of 2011 saw the continuation of some important trends, but it also experienced some unexpected developments. The biggest story saw AT&T agree to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion in a deal that — if approved by federal regulators — would alter the mobile landscape in some dramatic ways. The pact would consolidate the market of tier-one operators by 25 percent, potentially creating a space where three carriers of vastly different sizes vie for postpaid subscribers while a small army of smaller service providers target prepaid users.
The tablet industry continued to get legs early in 2011, with Apple’s dominance loosening slightly thanks to the emergence of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and a few other devices. Apple looked to cement its lead in the space, though, with the hugely successful launch of the iPad 2. Cupertino’s stranglehold in tablets will increasingly be tested as new devices come to market in the coming months, but competitors face a daunting challenge in bringing tablets to market that can compete with the new iPad in performance and price.
Meanwhile, the race for dominance among mobile operating systems became more heated than ever: Google’s Android gained substantial market share in the U.S., proving costly to Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS, while Apple’s iOS held the line. But while Android’s momentum is undeniable, it is increasingly hindered by the growing threat of malware and the very real problem of fragmentation. Google is moving aggressively to address both challenges, but the vulnerabilities of an opensource platform have never been more apparent for the Internet search giant.