1/4/2012 9:30 AM
Mobile industry leaders are looking for big moves in 2012 from the Seattle area’s two technology heavyweights, taking the lead from a surge by Google’s Android operating system, according to a new survey from Issaquah, WA-based Chetan Sharma Consulting.
Sharma’s 2012 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey, compiled from about 150 responses through the consulting firm’s global mailing list of industry insiders, also predicts that mobile payments and commerce will remain a big focus for businesses and consumers alike, further roiling the waters for retailers.
When asked what the biggest storyline of 2012 would be, survey respondents put Amazon’s entry into mobile in second place, with a Microsoft and Nokia “resurgence” close behind in third (the top story was the continued growth of mobile data usage worldwide).
The interest in Amazon certainly owes a lot to the newness of the e-commerce pioneer’s move into mobile computing, with the late 2011 debut of the Kindle Fire tablet. So there’s clearly a lot more room for Jeff Bezos and company to grow.
The company is also pretty well-regarded for its focus, and it has shown an ability to execute very well with Amazon Web Services, another business not directly tied to its Internet retailing niche.
Sharma says the extension into tablets, and perhaps a mobile phone in the near future, is just part of Amazon growing to become a “super-retailer for everything. They are already into groceries. Electronics is very heavy—they sell a lot of phones online.”
Amazon’s newly unveiled business model with tablets, which (at least currently) sells the device at a small loss and makes up the margin on content sales, is very hard for other companies to replicate, Sharma says. And the company’s retailing expertise means it knows shoppers’ tastes better than almost any other company.
“Amazon is very, very well placed, and they’re just starting to show their hand as to what their ambitions are,” Sharma says. “I think they’re sitting very pretty for many years to come.”
Microsoft’s role in the future of mobile has a lot to do with the success of Nokia, its main hardware partner for the refreshed Windows Phone operating system. The immediate stakes are higher for the Swedish phone-maker than they are for Microsoft, Sharma says, because cash-rich Microsoft can afford to play a bit longer game with the mobile market. But he notes that initial response for new Nokia phones has been “tepid” in Europe so far, and needs to show much better response when devices start hitting the U.S. market.
“If they don’t do that successfully by Q4, then definitely they’re in trouble—some of the same trouble that RIM is in,” Sharma says. Without success selling newer handsets, he adds, ”Nokia might not survive, or it might have to morph into something else.”
That possibility was surely on the minds of survey respondents who placed Microsoft No. 1 among the companies expected to make the biggest mobile acquisitions of 2012, with more than a quarter of the responses. Google and network operators broadly grouped together were in second and third place, with Amazon thought to be the fourth most likely to make a big M&A splash.
Sharma said one response that surprised him was the low rank given to Windows in the tablet sector. The latest version of Windows for tablets isn’t a reality for consumers yet, but Sharma asked respondents to look out two years—and they still saw Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platform taking most of the market.
“People still didn’t think Windows would make a big dent. That was surprising,” he says. “I think they can have a decent impact on the marketplace, because in the enterprise especially, there you have to have create tablets versus consume tablets,” the difference between filing out a spreadsheet and watching a YouTube video, for instance.
“Mobile is starting to become very important for Microsoft longer-term,” Sharma says. “Even if they are not doing that well today, five years out they have to be doing really well.”
Curt Woodward is senior editor at Xconomy Seattle. Reach me at email@example.com. Get story feeds and more on Twitter @curtwoodward and Facebook on.fb.me/curtwoodward.
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