Why the smartphone ecosystem advantage matters

Smartphones in the workplace are now considered to be one of the most significant trends that will further drive demand for new mobile business productivity applications. According to the latest market study by ABI Research, they now estimate that by 2017 about 2.4 billion enterprise employees will be using smartphones.

This represents a growth rate of 17% and is nearly three times more smartphones than employees use today - in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) segment of the global marketplace.

"Billions, not millions, is the size of the BYOD smartphone market. Mobility suppliers and enterprises need to think in terms of serving all employees with tools, apps, and services via their smartphones instead of only mobile employees or corporate liable employees," said Dan Shey, enterprise practice director at ABI Research.

The most immediate opportunities are in the mobile business customer base which includes employees using their phone for business reasons. This group includes corporate liable, individual liable and prosumer acquired devices - prosumers are currently the largest segment in this group.

Smartphones among this group will grow to about 640 million employees by 2017. Android has the dominant leadership position among the global workforce and is expected to grow to 56% share by 2017. However, ABI believes that it's possible it may never reach this level of adoption, depending on the success of other smartphone platforms.

ABI says that the key question is; will new smartphones from Microsoft/Nokia and RIM put more power in the hands of the enterprise employee, particularly for accessing online corporate resources? I believe that's unlikely to be the deciding factor.

Given the recent performance of these companies, I'm wondering if they seem more of a threat to their shareholder's equity investment, rather than becoming a potential concern to the established incumbent smartphone device competitors.

When you consider the smartphone platform ecosystem advantage that the current leaders have attained, it's really hard to imagine a scenario where others can create any meaningful momentum among independent mobile app software developers.

Moreover, the race to create the most compelling mobile enterprise software portfolio in the marketplace has not already been decided. The ultimate solution may look more like a federation of complementary best-in-class applications, not a suite from a single legacy enterprise software company.

I predict that the apparent strategic foresight that created both Google Android and Apple iOS ecosystems will become the most difficult aspect for others to replicate. Clearly, it's not impossible to unseat the market leaders, but it's going to take more than bold aspirations and product announcements to displace them.

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