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With Samsung, Apple dominating smartphones, where's the rest of the field?

Matt Hamblen | Aug. 15, 2012
While Samsung and Apple thrive in the overall smartphone market, the situation is uncertain, perhaps dire, for several cell-phone vendors, including Research In Motion, Nokia and Motorola.

She predicted that with new brands emerging, such as Huawei and ZTE, there will continue to be multiple competitors to Samsung and Apple and not necessarily consolidation around the two leading brands.

The value of smartphones will be delivered more through apps and services and less through the base OS, Milanesi added. "As the big OS owners call the shots, it will be increasingly difficult for vendors to stand out," she said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said he doubted that Motorola, Nokia and RIM face any immediate risk of going under because of the smartphone competition. "Most analysts have simply written them off, but I'm not so quick do so," he said.

RIM has plenty of cash on hand and Motorola has the reserves of Google, leaving Nokia the weakest financially unless Microsoft steps in.

Each of those three "can carve out a reasonable niche and do well if they position themselves and play their strengths," Gold said. "You don't have to have 50% or greater market share to do well. "

Taking each of the three, Gold said Motorola "should do OK" if the company focuses on business users at the mid- to high-end of the market.

Nokia can also do well, Gold said, but it still has only a 10% to 15% market share in two to three years with Windows Phone 8 devices gaining popularity. "While those numbers are substantial, they are certainly no where near the share of Android," he added.

To Gold, RIM is in the most trouble competitively of the three, with its new smartphone running BlackBerry 10 the farthest from being launched, in January.

"RIM still has a loyal but shrinking base of users, and I think many will upgrade to BlackBerry 10, but I also think RIM will have trouble recapturing much market share, short term," he said. "That doesn't mean they can't be profitable and have a good niche to play in. I don't see RIM simply disappearing any time soon, as some suggest." Longer term, RIM can regain a 10% to 15% market share, "which is not insignificant," Gold said.

Milanesi questioned that analysis for RIM, however. "There might always be a segment of the enterprise market that values security and will always pick RIM, but the question is, will that be enough? I would say no. RIM needs to find a different way to stay ahead of the game, after they catch up."



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