Microsoft loses more mobile share, RIM looks resilient

by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless

Although Samsung is sidelining Symbian and other multivendor operating systems for its mass market line, it will still make high end smartphones running the soon-to-be open source OS. It said that it would continue to develop for Symbian, Linux, Android and Windows Mobile, even as its own SHP and its new Bada software platform become the focus of its midrange. The relative attention that each option achieves from the Korean giant will depend on market demand, and currently, the outlook continues to look good for the open source OSs and poor for Windows Mobile.

The Microsoft mobile OS lost 28% of its smartphone market share in the past year, to the end of Q3, according to research firm Gartner. Its figures show that WinMo had 7.9% of the global smartphone market in the third quarter, compared to 11% a year earlier, and that the drop equated to a 20% year-on-year drop-off in shipments to 3.2m in the quarter, even in a smartphone market that grew 13% overall. However, the new release, WinMo 6.5, only became available in October, and did unleash a range of new phones, so Q4 could see some rallying.

Android’s share was 3.9% in Q309, while Symbian predictably lost some of its lead as choices proliferated, falling from 49.7% to 44.6%, but still in a commanding position. RIM was in second place, with its share up from 16% to 20.8%, followed by Apple, up from 12.9% to 17.1%.

The market shares could get shaken up considerably as smartphones with full operating systems and application platforms move into the mass market in 2010 and beyond. Symbian and Android are expected to be the main beneficiaries because of the scale of their key supporters, though several vendors, notably Samsung and LG, will rely mainly on their proprietary platforms in the midrange, while operators are also pushing their own choices (Vodafone’s 360 is heavily focused on LiMo for instance).

At least one research firm expects RIM to remain in a powerful position despite the rise of the multivendor OSs. Pyramid Research expects RIM to be the biggest beneficiary of the rising uptake of smartphones, at least in its heartland US market. Pyramid says smartphones will represent 31% of new handsets sold in the US in 2009, up from 15% in 2007, and by 2014 the figure will be 60%, it predicts. The BlackBerry will lose share in this US smartphone sector, falling from 50% now to 37% in 2014, but the bigger market will ensure that RIM stays out in front in the total US market.

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