The third quarter of 2011 was perhaps the most eventful and unpredictable in the history of mobile. Google signaled its intentions to move into the hardware market with the proposed acquisition of Motorola, which still must gain approval from federal regulators. Hewlett-Packard may have stuck a final dagger into webOS when it suddenly said it would cease production of handsets and tablets running the beleaguered platform. Steve Jobs announced his resignation from Apple and subsequently sparked a flurry of questions about how his daily absence will impact the company (Jobs passed away on Oct. 5). And the Department of Justice brought forth a lawsuit to kill AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA on antitrust grounds, leaving AT&T to scramble to find ways to save the deal.
That was just August. July saw Congress advance proposals encouraging television broadcasters to hand over wireless spectrum to mobile operators, and Google and PayPal closed out the quarter by advancing very different initiatives to deliver a mobile wallet.
Meanwhile, some important trends continued to emerge. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android continued to dominate the worldwide smartphone market. A real challenger to either of those platforms has yet to emerge. The formerly dominant Symbian faded to black (or at least dark gray), Research In Motion remained stuck in idle with BlackBerry OS in advance of the launch of QNX phones, and Nokia prepared to bring Windows Phone handsets to market later in the year in an effort to give a much- needed boost to Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
Apple also continued its tablet dominance with the iPad, which has seen a raft of competitors but no real competition. That could change now: Amazon’s recently introduced $199 Kindle Fire appears poised to eat into the iPad’s market share (if not its actual sales), thanks to its rock-bottom price point. The Kindle Fire could not only alter the tablet landscape but also revive a market for Android-based tablet apps that has languished while iOS has dominated the space. And while many onlookers were disappointed that Apple didn’t close out the quarter by adding any astonishing new features to its iconic handset, modest upgrades were enough to propel sales of the new iPhone 4S to unprecedented levels.