December 2010
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Day December 27, 2010

The parable of the the PDA: predicting the smartphone's future

When reading the comments disputing the possible end of the voice-phone era I’m reminded of similar comments disputing the end of the PDA era.

Although the Apple Newton pioneered the market in 1992 and John Sculley came up with the acronym, the Newton did not sell in significant volumes. It wasn’t until 1997 with the Palm Pilot that the PDA market took off. Microsoft quickly followed with a licensed OS based on Windows CE. In 2001 Microsoft launched the Pocket PC brand to cement its attack on the PDA market. The first phones using a Microsoft OS were using something called Pocket PC Phone Edition. The first Nokia smartphones (Communicators) were built like mobile PDAs.

The logic was quite compelling. The original PDA was built to mobilize contacts, calendars and notes. They replaced bulky paper organizers and seamlessly synced to PC productivity software like Outlook. It was a compelling product in the US where small business customers needed to keep track of hundreds of contacts. Users could even ‘beam’ contacts to each other via infrared. The idea of adding a phone function to the device made sense insofar as contacts could be immediately dialed from the contact app rather than typed into another device’s phone keypad.

By the early 2000’s PDAs were forecast to sell by the hundreds of millions.

Apple has accepted nearly 400,000 apps in 2.5 years

There are now well over 390,366 apps in the app store[1]

via 10,000 Apps! – Presented by :: 10,000 iPhone and iPod Touch applications in the iTunes App Store.

Since launch, December has been the month with the most apps added. In December 2008 3,800 apps were added, in 2009 25,517 and in 2010 it looks like we might get nearly 30k new apps.

That amounts to nearly 1000 new apps per day.

It also seems that 500k apps will have arrived by mid-2011. As the production of apps continues to grow one wonders if this new medium will turn out to become more popular than recorded music in terms of creative output.

[1] That includes about 65,000 inactive apps.

The $85 Smartphone and the imminent extinction of non-smartphones

In a recent article I made the claim:

My bet is that by the end of 2012, it will be hard to find any branded phones which won’t run a smartphone

I also showed how pricing has evolved over the last three years.

Two days later an article in Fortune’s Google24/7 blog highlighted the possible price points of low-end smartphones: