Windows 7 to be fastest growing smartphone OS – report

Analysts at Ovum have announced a number of predictions for the telecoms industry in 2011, with expectations that Windows 7 will become the fastest growing platform for smartphones, while the mobile landgrab in emerging markets will begin to slow down with emphasis shifting to broadband.

It is thought that telecoms markets in the emerging markets of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America will see intensified competition that will lead to lower prices, slower growth and indeed lower margins.

It is noted by Ovum analyst Angel Dobardziev that the “land grab phase” which occurred in the last decade will begin to wind down in 2011.  Although it is noted that there are areas of Africa and Asia that still contain potential customers, they are predominantly in rural areas that are hard to reach, and so are not attractive to service providers.

“For service providers all of this will mean that 20-30 percent subscriber and revenue growth rates will become increasingly rare, and single digit or low double digit growth will be the norm, particularly in regions such as Eastern Europe and Latin America,” said Dobardziev.

“Competition will intensify as players increasingly focus on winning market share from each other.”

Furthermore smartphones will increase their proliferation across emerging markets, with significant reductions in device price points expected  combined with the increasing capabilities of mid range devices.

“This will be great for users, who will enjoy bigger, better, and faster devices services and services – mostly at lower prices.  To deliver this and retain their margins, operators will increase their cost efficiency efforts.”

Meanwhile broadband access is forecast to become much more prominent in emerging markets during 2011, with the expectation that will become the fastest and most promising growth engine, amid the rapidly growing coverage of 3G and to a lesser extent wireline, cable, WiMAX , and in some instances fibre, according to Dobardziev.

“There will be parallels with the mobile land grab in the intensity of the battle , but the explosion of data traffic that will ensue will pose a new set of network and financial challenges to telcos – and a massive opportunity for equipment vendors.”

More general predictions for smartphones by Ovum analyst Tony Cripps point to the continued adoption by consumers throughout 2011, though it is a predicted that the focus will begin to be more on the major platform firm’s influence on the ecosystems on which they operate rather than just the number of shipments that they make.

According to Cripps it will be Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform that will make the biggest impact in 2011, with the expectation that it will become the fastest-growing platform.

Cripps believes that it is the “unique and desirable” interface of the platform’s interface, accompanied by a design and user experience that will enable it to begin to rival Apple’s iPhone.

When asked about whether Windows Phone 7 will continue capitalise on the predicted growth, Cripps told TechEye that there are certainly positive signs.

“This is an interesting question, especially in light of what an outwardly attractive package of user experience and integrated service offerings Windows Phone 7 represents. Certainly it has introduced something fresh to the smartphone field among the many iPhone-like approaches we’ve also seen, as well as the scale to make those developments meaningful in the market.”

“With that amount of investment behind it, the success or otherwise of Windows Phone 7 will be something of a bellwether for the future development of the smartphone market, he said.

“Right now we’d probably bet on it becoming a solid number three behind Android and iPhone in the medium term with the potential to go further. However, as it’s early days as yet it would be a bit much to expect it to overhaul those platforms – or BlackBerry – in the near future.”

Android meanwhile is expected to be the winner with regards to popularity amongst mobile developers during 2011 as it begins to swamp Apple’s installed base.

“Android offers a readymade but also fairly customisable software platform for OEMs that isn’t tied to any particular device manufacturer,” Cripps tells TechEye. “It is readily supported by major chipset vendors and also which offers the potential for an “iPhone-like” experience for users and application developers across a very wide range of price points.”

“In this way Google filled a gap in the market that other platforms – notably Symbian and Windows Mobile – couldn’t completely fulfil, although that’s not to say that there aren’t disadvantages in providing Google with such widespread access to peoples’ mobile phones.”

“This is especially true in terms of advertising opportunities and the difficulty other parties, mobile operators in particular, have in competing with them with their own web-Based apps and services.”

Cripps believes that Android potentially overtaking the iPhone in mobile developers’ affections could lead to a scenario where major content and application providers begin to develop for Android at the expense of iOS.

“If that occurs there could be ramifications for the attractiveness of each platform for consumers or other end users who may begin to choose devices based on what content or applications are available on them as much as they do other factors such as brand, desirability, price etc. That would be more of a worry for Apple than falling behind in the sheer number of apps (although that’s a long way from happening) as it would materially impact on its device sales.”