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When will the smartphone become a commodity?

I am taking a comment thread and promoting it to an article so as to expose it to a larger audience. There are two points of view:

Ariel writes:

I believe that next year and perhaps the year after that will see intense competition on the OS platform front, but eventually one will dominate the other(s) by a significant margin (and this also depends on the cloud and how it will be adopted across platforms). This happens as a result of a unified platform in which many can compete on lower margins instead of the development of the entire package and platform, which all goes hand in hand with commoditization.

However, to predict that smartphones will not be commoditized within the next three years is bold to say the least. The desktop was settled very quickly, and in this industry of exponential growth, it can be assumed it will not take longer for a similar scenario to settle.

I reply:

I’ve been observing (professionally) the smartphone market from its inception and was holding my breath for the commoditization of handsets that Microsoft promised all the way from 2004 through 2009. Several generations of Windows Mobile were predicated on the imminent stabilization of hardware and user experiences years before the iPhone came along. Not only Microsoft but Palm via PalmSource, Symbian as a consortium of all incumbents, Sun & IBM via Java, DoCoMo with iMode and not least of all, Qualcomm with BREW all made the same bets and ran with horizontal strategies toward a smartphone future built on the lessons of the PC industry. The only holdout for the integrated approach was the one company that everybody marked for dead: RIM. It’s also the only one who raked in all the profits.

All this happened before 2007.

To suggest that this time, in 2010, it’s different: that the definition of the smartphone as it exists today is the product at its zenith; that user experiences and expectations and hardware specifications and platform dynamics will be henceforth frozen with minor sustaining tweaks to look forward to is, in my opinion, a far riskier bet.

I don’t try to be a futurist or predictor of how the product will evolve, but I can see a dozen ways of how the very definition of a smartphone will change and how in 4 years we’ll have products that won’t be recognizable as such today.

So much depends on when the smartphone (or more broadly mobile computing) reaches this point of good enough. It’s at the root of all hypotheses of how the market will evolve.