Wow. What an absolutely chaotic week in the world of (enterprise) mobility. We spent the majority of the week digesting Monday’s news where Google announced its intention to buy Motorola. Not to be outdone by that news, HP announced yesterday that it was cancelling immediately its webOS hardware business and considering its “strategic options” for the future of webOS. That’s earnings call parlance for saying that webOS is pretty much dead.
I was talking to a colleague yesterday and I asked him a very simple question: “Have you ever seen so many major changes in the mobility landscape as what we have seen in the last SIX months???” His answer was clear, concise and to the point.
Here’s the quick recap.
- Symbian and MeeGo get killed off
- Nokia bets the farm on Windows Phone
- RIM struggles
- Google’s market share goes up like a rocket
- Apple owns the tablet market
- Google goes vertical a la Apple
- HP raises the white flag for webOS
What an unbelievable turn of events. Unbelievable, if only in terms of the rate of change…not necessarily what has happened. We all knew that SEVEN mobile platforms would not be sustainable in the long run….but to lose THREE in SIX months, is nothing short of astounding.
I come today not to praise webOS, nor to bury it. (I know, I have adapted that famous line from Marcus Antonius more than once, but it always seems applicable.) I have followed webOS since its inception and always had high hopes for it and the team building it. The cold, hard truth is that it just didn’t work out. I’m here today in stead to tell you how the demise of this once promising platform is GOOD for enterprise mobility.
Even though mobility has been around for some time, the reality is that the “Post PC era” is only a few years old. (Enterprise) mobility is still a nascent market. By definition, you will have multiple entrants trying to penetrate the market. Over time, you will see competition increase, see companies make brilliant moves, and others massive missteps. There is then M&A, divestitures, implosions, “strategic alliances,” etc…. that all point to one thing. Consolidation.
This consolidation phase is the maturation of a sector. I guess you can say that (enterprise) mobility is now moving beyond its “teenage” years (assuming we are measuring this industry in dog years) and becoming a young adult.
What this means is that enterprise mobility management vendors can focus now on just four platforms, not paying lip service to a 5th, 6th or 7th. This means they will be able to provide deeper functionality on a level playing field more quickly. This also means that organizations will have less diversity….and this is ultimately a good thing. Now mind you, I’m all for a heterogeneous mobile environment, but IT departments tell me all the time that they would like “less chaos.” webOS – even though it had little mind (and market) share – was still in the mix. It’s now completely an afterthought. That’s a good thing.
IT departments can now focus on managing devices and developing applications for (only) four platforms. That will accelerate the further adoption of mobile applications in the workplace. Now of course, the other reality is that iOS and Android get the dominant mind share today, with BlackBerry and Windows Phone gunning for the 3rd slot.
I’m not here today to suggest what the rankings will be (IP litigation will undoubtedly play into the mix), but the billion dollar question becomes “How many mobile operating systems can the market sustain? 4? 3? or 2?”
Only time will tell.