Ample Pickings

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Jan 24 2013, 06:21am hrs
With Googles Android and Apple's iOS together capturing 86% of the mobile operating system market, and other players like Research in Motion, Nokia and Microsoft capturing the bulk of the rest, it is easy to assume that this market is saturated. Android's increasing dominance in particularits market share went up from 52% in Q3-2011 to 72.5% in Q3-2012has been seen as a discouraging factor for new entrants into the market. But, while the game may be settled in developed markets where there are few first-time smartphone buyers, smaller companies are seeing encouraging growth potential in developing countries where there are still large numbers of buyers looking to purchase their first smartphones. The newest entrant into the OS market is Mozilla, which recently released its Firefox OS. It is easy to see this as a move to erode the Google and Apple's dominance, but the truth is that Mozilla and other small companies see the market as being large enough to satisfy dominant and smaller players alike. Firefox OS will run HTML 5 appsbasically like websites opening in separate browserswhich, while undoubtedly inferior to Android and iOS apps in terms of performance, will allow phones running this OS to be markedly cheaper. Mozilla is taking this cheaper approach and focussing on Brazil, hoping to scoop up a sizeable number of new phone-buyers there.

Similarly, Samsung (which needs to escape its overwhelming dependence on Android), Jolla and Canonical are all developing low-cost operating systems and single-mindedly targeting emerging phone markets. Jolla, for example, is taking its Sailfish OS only to China for the moment. While 'others' (the category under which all these smaller companies come under) have only a 0.4% OS market share, emerging markets could help these numbers improve markedly over the next year or two.