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When the Macintosh was launched in 1984, computers running the MS-DOS operating system were nearing a dominant position in the market. Having launched in 1981 as the IBM PC, they were quickly cloned and four years later “PCs” were selling at the rate of 2 million/yr. The Mac only managed 372k units in its first year.
In other words, PC was outselling the Mac by a factor of nearly 6. It turned out to be a high point. The ratio by which the PC outsold the Mac only increased from there.
When Windows 95 launched in 1995 it negated most of the advantages of the ease of use of the Macintosh and the PC market took off. The ratio reached 56 in 2004 when 182.5 million PCs were sold vs. 3.25 million Macs.
During the second half of the 90s it was already clear that Windows won the PC platform war. Windows had an advantage that seemed unsurmountable.
I should point out that this ratio between platforms is not just an exercise in arithmetic. It’s a measure of leverage. The advantage of dominance is realized in an ecosystem which creates lock-in and additional economies in marketing. Ecosystems become self-perpetuating and there is a tendency toward monopoly. The stronger you are, the stronger you get.
Then, in 2004, something happened.
According to comScore, as of end of May, the ratio of consumer phone users in the US (aged more than 13) who use smartphones as their primary phone has reached 47%.
The question is whether this is reaching saturation. My guess has been that saturation will be at levels well above 80%. The data shows that during May the rate of smartphone adoption (first time users) was 630k/week. This number is a good recovery to above the historic mean indicative that saturation is not yet in effect.
50% penetration will happen this summer. A year ago the predicted “tipping point” date was also the same: August 2012.
The platform shares data is also returning to a historic consistency. A month ago I asked if there was “trouble with the robot” because Android net adds dropped to a level unseen for two years and the decline in net adds had been going on for four months.
This last report shows a recovery in Android net adds to about 1.5 million new users.
[Note here too that there is no sign of saturation: The net user gains are far above net user losses. Even BlackBerry showed a gain. In a market where there is saturation, net gains and losses among platforms would balance each other out.]
In terms of share, Android shows two months of no growth.
The number of BlackBerry phones sold fell 41% year-on-year in the last RIM fiscal quarter. Sequentially the fall was 30%. Though surprisingly poor, I note that Nokia’s smartphone business fell even more dramatically last quarter (down 50% y/y and 39% sequentially). LG also saw a 44% decline in unit shipments in Q1.
The history of smartphone shipments for the largest vendors is shown in the following chart:
From forecasts made by Huawei it’s probable that they overtook RIM in the last quarter, dropping RIM to 5th or 6th ranked vendor in smartphone units.
RIM’s 7.8 million units is the same level of sales as it had in early 2009. The total market was only about 250 million units per quarter then. It’s around 400 million today. A quick calculation shows that RIM’s smartphone market share has fallen from a peak of 22% to about 6%.
RIM’s stock performance reflects this performance relative to the market.