Today brought some sobering news for both RIM and Microsoft. The Q1 numbers are in and both companies saw their mobile business take a terrible beating. RIM's overall market share stayed steady, at 3%. But the BlackBerry OS faced steep declines. In Q1 2010, it sat at 19.7%. And now, it hovers at 12.9%.
Things aren't any better for Microsoft. Despite pushing Windows Phone 7 as hard as they could, Redmond's global market share was nearly cut in half. It went from 6.8 percent last year, to 3.6% now. You'd be hard-pressed to identify that as anything but total free-fall. It's true that some of that decline must be due to the growing obsolescence of the old Windows Mobile OS. But WP7 should have at least slowed the descent.
Gartner found a mere 1.6 million WP7 handsets sold in Q1. That doesn't sound bad...until you realize that this means WinMo outsold its successor by roughly 400,000 units. Windows Phone 7 can't even beat the clunky, last-last-gen OS that it was built to replace. I'm not sure I'd call this "catastrophic", but the situation is certainly dire for Microsoft. WP7 is not gaining traction among users. The deal with Nokia may be its last hope of solvency.
While nobody seems interested in buying BlackBerry OS devices, the PlayBook appears to be an unqualified success. This could mean good things for RIM, once they get around to using their new QNX-based OS on a line of modern smartphones. That needs to happen quickly though. Every month sees the BlackBerry brand fade a little in value and reach.
It's extremely difficult to reverse a downward slide. Even the fastest manufacturers can't turn out solid, new products overnight. Updating an operating system and launching desirable devices takes time. And while that time is passing, there's really no way to stop the companies with momentum from eating you alive. Android and iOS will continue to sell while RIM and Microsoft fiddle with their formulas to try and figure out what works.
So while Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry OS may slowly be inching towards mainstream desirability, the competition continues to surge forward. In the coming months, Microsoft and RIM will be lucky if they can keep treading water.