RIM and Microsoft in 2012: Obvious advantage goes to Microsoft

While Apple and Google enjoy success at the top, RIM and Microsoft are left trying to define their place in the smartphone world. IMHO, Microsoft has the advantage.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Once again, my fellow ZDNet blogger James Kendrick throws me a softball that I can't help but taking a whack at. James posted an article today stating that RIM has the advantage over Microsoft in the smartphone space and I just had to offer my opposing opinion on the matter. James focused on some inaccurate smartphone market share figures and a discussion on development changes in Windows Phone 8, but I think we need to look at Windows Phone 7's growth, not including the old Windows Mobile figures, the entire Microsoft/Windows Phone ecosystem, development opportunities, and mindshare of both platforms.

Windows Phone 7 growth continues

Windows Phone 7 obviously launched with 0% market share in October 2010 and the latest figures for Windows Phone show about a 2% market share. Yes, this is a small figure when compared to iOS and Android, shoot even when compared to RIM currently at about 7%, but if you look at the data the platform has showed slow growth since launch. With Nokia getting much more aggressive with marketing and carriers finally paying attention to Windows Phone, I think we will see this continue to grow.

There is some very encouraging news from outside the U.S. where Windows Phone has been better adopted, including seeing German growth double to 6% in the latest quarter, growth in Europe increase fivefold over the last year, and 7% market share in Norway where Windows Phone is now the 3rd platform.

Windows Mobile is obviously going down since Microsoft hasn't actively been selling those devices since mid-2010, but many market share statistics still include it when talking about Microsoft's mobile platform.

However, looking at RIM we see the opposite trend from what we see for Windows Phone. RIM had nearly 16% of the market at the end of 2010, but then fell down to 8.8% by the end of 2011 and analysts predict continued declines to 5%. How can this be an advantage to RIM?

Microsoft ecosystem

RIM has BBM and their BES, but has a weak consumer ecosystem when you look at media, gaming, and other functions while Microsoft has the Zune music and video service, Xbox Live gaming, Skydrive integration, native Office capability and so much more. I understand the enterprise is important, but as Apple has shown you also need to capture the consumer to succeed and Microsoft has the better chance here due to their vast resources and ecosystem.

3rd party apps and development opportunities

James covered the development changes that are coming with Windows Phone 8, but I disagree that it will be similar to BB 10 or even what Microsoft went through with Windows Mobile. Windows Phone 8 devices will be able to run existing Windows Phone 7 legacy apps. Microsoft has done a very good job of providing the tools and assistance needed to support developers and will continue through the WP8 transition. The move to a variation of WinRT for Windows Phone 8 means that developers will have the opportunity to create apps for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 tablets. This seems like a much more attractive option to me than developing for a brand new RIM operating system. Given the wild success of the RIM PlayBook (obvious sarcasm here) and QNX-based OS (it is a slick OS), I am not sure what drives developers to RIM.

Also, if you look at the Windows Phone Marketplace you will find over 80,000 apps that easily beat out the capability and design of what you see in RIM's current lineup. Where is the attraction in developing for RIM?

What platform is attracting consumers?

A couple years back I saw family and friends picking up BlackBerry smartphones because they offered a nice messaging and data option right from the point of purchase. However, I now see people picking up Windows Phone due to the "flash" of the OS, games, and the power of the applications while I have not seen anyone I know buying a new BlackBerry smartphone. The only people I now know with a BlackBerry carry one because work issued it to them, but they also then have an iPhone or another phone for their own usage.

Microsoft still has a long ways to go to advertise and get the word out about Windows Phone, but I am sticking by my advice that you have to try it to "get it" and people I know that have tried it love it. Four of the five people in my own home are now using Windows Phone and NONE were forced to by me.

I will be defending my position that Nokia has the better turnaround position compared to RIM in next week's ZDNet Great Debate so stay tuned for that.

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