The last few years we have seen the mobile space grow from a niche market to the big elephant in the room. The rapid adoption of smartphones and the appearance of the iPad has given mobile the primary focus of some very big companies. The size of the mobile market has forced players to scramble to fit in somehow, and the shakeup has only just begun.
Apple turned its attention to mobile first with the iPhone, and its success pushed rival platform Android into the picture. Then Microsoft joined the smartphone wars with a totally revamped Windows Phone, which hasn't created an impact like Android but is still around.
Then the iPad arrived and the entire tablet space was born. Apple wasn't the first to market a tablet, but it was certainly the first to make a big splash with one. The very definition of mobile in the gadget world changed to include both smartphones and tablets, as competitors raced to build tablets to compete with the iPad.
The main competitor to the iPad is Android, and while some models are selling in the millions, the companies producing them admit they aren't affecting the bottom line yet. The tablet market is perceived by players and analysts alike to be quite large, so the gloves are off for the fight.
Later this year we could see a big shakeup in the mobile space, compliments of Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 will be the next big version of the smartphone platform from Redmond, and it is beginning to have teeth to make a serious run at both Android and iOS. The partnership with Nokia, a company not the healthiest in mobile, may start clicking with Windows Phone 8.
The big shakeup potential is not Windows Phone alone, it will come in the form of Windows 8. While putting a mobile facade on a desktop OS is not enough to shake things up, the Windows RT version has the potential to upset the mobile space like nothing that has come before it.
Windows RT is the version of Windows 8 that will run on ARM-based devices, a true mobile platform by any definition. It may not be the full version of Windows that some were hoping for, but that's probably a good thing. A version of Windows written from the ground up to be a mobile platform for devices like tablets can disrupt the mobile space like other products have so far failed to do.
Microsoft can leverage Windows RT to get it into the enterprise, and consumer acceptance could easily grow from that. The folks from Redmond know how to make a platform that sings to the enterprise, and Windows RT should sing that song.
Don't be surprised to see OEMs and Microsoft work to bundle laptops, tablets, and smartphones for the enterprise. That has the potential to pierce the corporate veil like no other product/platform has been able to do. The enterprise likes to keep things in one basket, and Windows is a big brand in the corporate world.
If Windows RT devices start appearing in the hands of workers in great numbers, the mobile space will be changed forever. It is rare in a growing market for a new player to show up and start impacting things from the start, and Windows RT has the potential to do that.
A successful launch of Windows RT will have a dramatic impact on Windows Phone, too, as Microsoft has taken the steps to merge the underlying framework of the two platforms. That can be leveraged by Microsoft to bring Windows Phone to the enterprise as part of the Windows RT entry. The latter can feed the former, and no doubt that is what Microsoft is hoping will happen.
A new product like Windows RT will not be perfect out of the gate, but that's OK. Products don't have to be perfect to be successful, they only need to be accepted.
This shakeup is coming this year, and it will impact both Android and iOS. Microsoft is huge and has the resources to make things get crazy in mobile, and that may very well happen. A lot of things have to happen properly, but Microsoft is in a position to make sure they do. It's going to be a great time to be a mobile enthusiast in just a few months.