The memory of the general public is so short. Let’s go back to 2003 when Windows Mobile took the market and nearly ran Blackberry out of business. Remember there was a $9,000 savings (not including per Blackberry device licensing) in implementing Windows Mobile versus Blackberry with a separate server, OS, and Blackberry Enterprise Software. RIM had 4 brick-like models versus hundreds of Windows Mobile devices and to compete RIM quickly figured out it must give away it’s software.
Somewhere in there while Apple was good at making snarky commercials poking fun at PC, market share never really increased for the Mac so “Computer” was dropped from the name in favor of new markets and the iPod was born (move over Sony Walkman). Nearly 5 years later seeing how Nokia dominated Europe, the iPhone would be something different fitting the classic Apple model of high price and slow rollout of new features and models.
Sitting on somewhat less than a Google of cash, Google pushed open source with the Android for again a mix of devices and better speed and newer features than iPhone. With Apple only rolling out only one new iPhone a year, it’s not hard to imagine Google selling more with choice of various devices and carriers in a short couple of years.
Now Microsoft has returned with Windows Phone 7. While Apple had previously (in 2007) set the tone for new mobile interfaces which Google generally emulated, Microsoft has trumped everyone with the new hub interface to pin favorite updating hubs to the main screen. The devices are faster and usage is faster, no one does Office and Exchange integration better, and finally Microsoft is the only player to offer a fully integrated ecosystem. While Apple has the generally despised iTunes and Google of course has search and mapping, Microsoft offers Xbox Live, Windows Live, and Bing. Now you can seamlessly search (with voice activation), shop, share, and synchronize documents, music, videos, pictures, games and status.
Adoption for Windows Phone 7 has just begun and the comparatively small Apps Marketplace is growing. However, it looks like in the coming years the battle will be about integration and Microsoft should not be discounted. The smartphone industry seems to parallel the gaming industry. Atari started the true gaming consoles followed by Sega, Nintendo, Sony, and then Microsoft. The early leaders in gaming are generally no more and it’s likely the same fate will happen in smartphones with Microsoft, Google, and Apple remaining.