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Talk of mobile dominance is bunk

I’ve been asked in comments on this blog who will win the “mobile war”.

I use two analytical tools to answer this question: (1) history (2) value chain analysis.

History shows that operators are very important and hence very powerful in this market. That makes sense on many levels. They control what phones you get to buy, they decide the pricing and they decide frequently how you can use the phone. This is because the networks are expensive to build and maintain and there is an implicit bargain struck that the user and device should conform to the operator.

Value chain analysis tells me that as networks are not good enough, tight integration of the business models of the phone vendors and the operators is necessary to climb up the trajectory toward good enough as quickly as possible.

Therefore, given the distribution of value/bargaining power in the chain, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s operators who will decide which platforms win/lose and to what degree.

That simply means that no single platform can win a disproportionate share because it would threaten the balance of control the operators require. So talk of “dominance” of one platform or another is hyperbole. The most likely scenario is an even distribution of share between 4 or 5 competitors, so I expect iPhone and Android to get 20% share each.

This is not “fair” or economical or efficient, but it’s the way it’s going to be for a long time. If you’re a fan, don’t despair. In a few years, it still means hundreds of millions of units a year for each platform.

If you want to dream or hope for a more efficient outcome, you’ll have to look outside the cellular network model. I.e. think how iPod/iPad and Android tablets will evolve into communications products.

(thanks to M for asking).