The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Steve Ballmer has pulled out his crystal ball and made another prediction of iPhone failure. He said there is no chance the iPhone will achieve any significant market share, adding that, “They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”
If you remove his total speculation about Apple’s chances, it looks like all he’s saying is that he’d really rather see 780 million Windows Mobile devices sold than 26 million. This is the kind of bold thinking that Microsoft needs. Sell more! Of course! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?
I have no doubt that Steve would prefer that 60% of smartphones were Windows-based — recent numbers show Microsoft a distant second with 14% of the worldwide market. Symbian continues to dominate with a 67% market share. (I’ve seen a variety of percentages reporting, all citing the same Canalys data. I’m going with what’s quoted at the site above, but recognize that these numbers may be off somewhat.)
There seems to be plenty of room for Apple. Symbian’s market share is split between different versions of its OS. The software to synchronize my P800 and P910i with my Windows computer was a disaster — a hodgepodge of different applications that would sometimes lose track of whether my phone was plugged in or not. (Maybe it’s an omen that the best syncing experience has been — take a guess — once I started using the P910i with my MacBook Pro. I haven’t had any problems using iSync.) Both phones ended up with trips back to Sony Ericsson for service. The software on the phone has its fair share of quirks — I’m particularly irritated by the oddly short fields in the calendar application (vital information is always getting truncated on the phone) and the terrible web browser. As much as I love my P910i, there’s enormous room for improvement. And it made the iPhone’s pricing look like a bargain.
Palm — now called the Garnet OS — could also be an easy target. Incredibly innovative when it was first introduced, the Palm OS is now looking a bit tired. They just haven’t kept up and their market share shows it. Garnet OS has an enormous catalog of applications available for it but they trail with a paltry 5% of the market.
I’ve had only limited exposure to Windows devices and RIM devices. Windows Mobile seems to have come a long way from the early, crash-prone Orange SPV I saw years ago. And the Blackberry interface drives me crazy. I know many, many people love these things but they’re not for me.
There aren’t many people — least of all Apple — claiming that the iPhone is going to take over the mobile market. Apple does say that they think they can carve out a small chunk of the existing market. There’s a lot that says they can — I don’t need much convincing to give up poor syncing, awful email programs and unusable web browsers. How far can they ultimately go? We’ll have to see how well that multi-touch display works. I’m pretty used to dialing one-handed by touch.