Mobile's Second Quarter: Apple vs. Google Hostilities Escalate

The second quarter of 2010 was an especially eventful one for mobile, where the landscape shifted dramatically even during relatively humdrum times. And as I discuss in my quarterly wrap-up over at GigaOM Pro, the biggest story of the quarter was the ever-escalating battle between Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog).

Android continued to close the gap with Apple’s iOS in terms of market share, according to multiple reports, and Android Market’s library of apps continued to swell. Apple’s App Store didn’t lose any momentum though, and the iPad has thus far been a huge success, sparking a new wave of applications (including e-books) created specifically to take advantage of the device’s larger screen and multi-touch functionality. Impressively, Apple has single-handedly created a market for tablets that other manufacturers have futilely tried to tap over the years. And Apple raised the stakes in the mobile advertising game with iAd, an ad platform unveiled that was unveiled in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, AT&T (s t) became the first U.S. operator to kill the all-you-can-eat data plans that are a staple for American operators, opting instead for tiered plans with caps and heavy penalties for overages. While AT&T’s competitors have yet to follow, Verizon Wireless (vz) executives for months have spoken of the need to move to metered billing to ease congestion and better monetize data usage; other carriers are also sure to follow.

Months of speculation regarding the fate of Palm (s palm) ended in the second quarter when Hewlett Packard (s hpq)  said it would acquire the beleaguered manufacturer for $1.2 billion. Palm had failed to gain much traction with webOS, despite being launched last year to solid reviews; its Pre and Pixi handsets saw disappointing sales as well. HP plans to leverage its new OS to become a player in the smartphone space as well as in tablets. The company has the potential to see huge growth in the near future. And speaking of smartphones, BlackBerry’s dominance may be fading as consumer-friendly devices like the iPhone and Android handsets gain momentum, according to recent figures from ChangeWave research.

Finally, the race toward 4G escalated in the second quarter, as Sprint (s s) continued the hasty build-out of its WiMAX network across the country in advance of LTE networks that will come to market from AT&T and Verizon Wireless. With many industry onlookers focused on those two 4G technologies, T-Mobile USA is countering by upgrading to HSPA+, which offers speeds that rival WiMAX. AT&T is investing in HSPA+ also, in advance of its 2011 rollout of LTE.

Each of these storylines will thicken in coming months: Apple’s iOS and and Google’s Android will build on their dominance in the world of mobile operating systems, Verizon Wireless will move toward metered billing, HP will try to become a player in smartphones and the march toward 4G will accelerate. So the third quarter of the year may be even more eventful than the one that it follows. Read the full post here.

Image courtesy Flickr user Bob Jagendorf.