This week in Barcelona, Spain a conference called Mobile World Congress is happening. The attendees are employees of some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies: AT&T, Apple Computer, Motorola, Google, Microsoft.
Their goal? To consolidate the market for the software that runs on SmartPhones. Summing it up if you’re from Apple, you might say: “there’s an app for that, but only if you use an iPhone”.
So let’s see: Apple, the undisputed leader in the SmartPhone market (but losing share quickly to Android), would like everyone’s software to run on everyone else’s phones? And Microsoft, who have released yet another version of their phone software, is looking to be cooperative with their competitors?
Yeah. This ought to work.
Yesterday, this article in The New York Times explained, correctly, that the market for SmartPhone Apps is fracturing in much the same way that the personal computer fractured. Apple Macintosh sucked off a small portion of the market from Microsoft Windows, Windows became “the standard” in businesses, and it took decades before Macintosh became a worthy competitor, market-wise. Mobile World Congress’ goal is nothing less than to stop that kind of thing from happening again.
Now if only a group of large companies with more to lose from coopetition that they have to gain would cooperate and create . . . what? A single operating system?
Mobile World Congress has an admirable goal. But it’s unattainable. Large companies don’t make changes of that sort easily. And they sure don’t make them proactively. Verizon and AT&T have just started allowing data-based voice software like Skype to run on their phone networks, after years of fighting to keep them out. They enacted that business change only when they realized they had no choice and were better off doing business with their previous “competitors” than pushing the proverbial rock of refusal up the proverbial hill of “good luck stopping them”.
What’s Apple’s incentive for playing nice with Google and Android, or Microsoft and Windows Phone? Theoretically, being the leader of the pack will look appealing, but not for these guys.