BlackBerry Fading Against Android OS and iPhone

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BlackBerry is losing overall share in the smartphone market along with its long-time leadership spot in the business space, suggest major analysts, pinning the trend on factors ranging from a relative dearth of BlackBerry OS software applications to sleek new phones from Apple and the Android OS partners.

Right now, the world mobile operating system market is still dominated by four players: Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android OS, RIM’s BlackBerry OS 6, and Nokia’s Symbian OS, according to Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“Launches of updated operating systems — such as Apple iOS 4, BlackBerry OS 6, Symbian^3 and Symbian^4, and Windows Phone 7 — will help maintain strong growth in smartphones in 2H10 and 2011 and spur innovation. However, we believe that market share in the OS space will consolidate around a few OS that have the most support from CSPs (communication service providers) and [application] developers and strong brand awareness with consumer and enterprise customers,” Cozza said in a statement.

Ultimately, RIM’s BlackBerry OS won’t be one of the chosen few, according to a new forecast released by Gartner. RIM’s share of the overall worldwide smartphone market will slip from 19.9% in 2009 to 11.7% in 2014. Symbian’s share will fall from 46.9% to 30.2% by 2014. Apple’s will inch up from 14.4% in 2009, to 15.4% in 2010, to 17.1% in 2011, before sliding down to 14.9% in 2014. At the same time, the Android OS’s share will soar from 3.9% in 2009 to 29.6% in 2014.

Developers Aren’t Interested in BlackBerry OS
A somewhat earlier study by analyst group Appcelerator showed that, even in June, RIM’s OS trailed way behind both Apple’s iOS and the Android OS in terms of support from application developers for business and other apps.

When asked about their levels of interest in developing applications for specific platforms, 90% of developers said that they’re “very interested” in developing for iPhone (iOS), while 84% said the same for the iPad tablet (iOS).

In contrast, the numbers amounted to 81% for Android OS phones, 62% for Android OS tablets, and only 34% for the BlackBerry OS platform. Merely 27% of the developers were “very interested” in Windows 7, 15% in Symbian OS, 13% in the Palm Pre/Pixi platform, 11% in the MeeGo OS, and 6% in Amazon’s Kindle e-reader platform.

Also tellingly for RIM, 65% said they see iOS as offering “the biggest market for my business apps,” in comparison to only 21% for the BlackBerry OS, 11% for the Android OS, and 4% for “other” at present.

Upcoming Android OS Devices Also Big Drivers
In a report released last month, Gartner pointed to new features in BlackBerry OS 6-based smartphone such as the BlackBerry Torch, RIM’s first Touchscreen slider. Yet although Torch will keep many loyal BlackBerry users from straying to other phone environments, it won’t lure in new customers, according to Gartner’s report in August.

In a report accompanying its latest forecast on Friday, Gartner cited an upcoming wave of new Android OS devices as another force that will help propel market momentum away from competing platforms such as RIM’.

“Gartner expects manufacturers such as Samsung to launch many new budget Android devices in 2H10 that will drive Android into mass market segments. Other players, such as Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola, will follow a similar strategy. This trend should help Android become the top OS in North America by the end of 2010,” according to the report.

Growing Crossover Between Business and Consumer Markets
Meanwhile, other analyst groups have cited a rising movement in businesses toward letting workers bring in their smartphones from home, in contrast to the long-time practice of ordering fleets of BlackBerry OS or Windows Mobile phones as standard issue for employees.

In results released by IDG Research last month, for example, about 66% of 400 IT managers surveyed said that users at their companies are now either “making or involved in” decisions about smartphones.

RIM seems to be recognizing this consumer/business crossover trend by urging developers to create music, video, and other entertainment apps as part of a beefed-up development program.

In June, for example, the Hulu-like Bitbop streaming TV service for smartphones announced a decision to go live on BlackBerry OS devices before either Android OS phones or iPhones.

Android OS to Prevail Over BlackBerry OS and Even iOS
For the moment, the huge numbers of applications in Apple’s App Store is widely viewed as a competitive advantage over not only the BlackBerry OS but the Android OS, too.

Still, Gartner is downbeat over the long-term prospects of “single-source” development platforms such as BlackBerry OS or even iOS in drawing as much support from wireless carriers as open source environments such as the Android OS.

“Gartner predicts that by 2014, open-source platforms will continue to dominate more than 60 percent of the market for smartphones. Single-source platforms, such as Apple’s iOS and Research in Motion’s OS, will increase in unit terms, but their growth rate will be below market average and not enough to sustain share increase. Windows Phone will be relegated to sixth place behind MeeGo in Gartner’s worldwide OS ranking by 2014,” predicts Gartner’s latest report.

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