What Third Place in Smartphones Looks Like

Forbes recently provides some details pertaining to how the big three, Apple, Google and Microsoft, are doing in the fast growing smartphone business.

Two metrics stood out: Total number of phones sold and total dollar amount paid to developers.



Why these two?

Because it’s very difficult for a late-to-the-party product like Windows Phone to make a dent in the market when they are years behind the incumbents because smartphones really aren’t about the phones as much as they are about the ecosystem which includes apps and services.

Before web services came along, this was the same reason you bought a Windows PC. That new game or program only ran on Windows so your dollars flowed into the Microsoft coffers. But with the PC market in decline, developers are looking for new grounds to harvest, and they have found plenty of opportunity building apps for Android and iOS, not to mention hundreds of millions of potential customers.

Today, the best apps and services are on Android and iOS. Personally, I believe the most polished apps are on iOS, but Google is ahead in terms of services like Gmail, Google Docs and voice. But both platforms are mature and have a lot to offer their customer base. Both iOS and Android have armies of developers creating apps for those platforms because, well, that’s where the users are! It’s not rocket surgery.

Microsoft is finding itself in a catch 22 situation: To sell more phones, they need a lot of quality apps and services. But developers are slow to build Windows Phone apps because their user base is tiny compared to Android and iOS.

This is one business that not even Microsoft may be able to buy their way in to.

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