The dawn of the smartphone has ushered in a brave new world for computing. With its ability to act as a browser, storage center, gaming platform, and communications hub, the smartphone possesses the ability to blur the lines between market segments. MacRumors.com reports on a study released by RBC Capital Markets today that proposes a “new world order” for the tech world, with smartphones at the peak of the next wave of computing.
Because of the variability inherent in smartphones, RBC believes it is possible for there to be multiple market leaders. Apple already has a lock on being the “media-centric” leader, which isn't much of a stretch considering how much time iPhone users spend browsing. RIM is expected to be the “productivity-centric” business phone leader. Other proposed categories include “PIM-Centric”, which will go to the phone that revolutionizes personal organization, and “cloud-centric”, which will go to the social-media/email king. Other possible market segments include gaming smartphones, e-reader phones, and navigation phones.
Personally, I think they're splitting the market up more than is realistic. I can see separate gaming, media-centric, and business phones, those divisions make sense. However, whichever phone is the best browsing and media viewing phone (the iPhone) is also likely to be the best social media/email phone. I doubt e-reader phones will ever be big enough to justify their own market segment, but I could see another category of smartphone arising.
If a manufacturer would be willing to throw a lot of money behind giving their smartphone a truly exceptional camera, they could create a new 'media capture' phone segment. Lots of users would go for a solid smartphone that packed a 10-12 MP camera with a good lens, HD video capture, and maybe even a projector.
Getting back to the study, RBC anticipates Apple's market share to rise from 10.8% to 16.3% in 2012. If current trends hold fast, that would put them ahead of RIM (which is losing ground to Apple fast) as the new #2 smartphone manufacturer. RBC notes that the smartphone market is rapidly growing while the mobile market is shrinking. This means that Apple's total mobile market share is predicted to rise from 1.1% (2008) to 5.7% in 2012.
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That would mean a total of more than 82 million iPhones on the market in 2012. That's a staggering number, but not at all beyond Apple's capabilities. No one with half a brain bets against Cupertino anymore these days.