2012 has seen the rise of the smartphone, which has become more popular than simple mobile in many countries. There are arguments and articles arguing about who has greatest market share in different territories, but for 2012, Apple and Samsung are the clear winners here. I love that Samsung’s Note has re-introduced the stylus i was using back in the '90s with my first smartphone.
There’s still noise about Apple TV, which isn’t here yet, while Samsung have been making smart, gesture-enabled TVs for sometime. Oh, and there’s plenty of noise about Apple maps—will Apple get local right like they did mobile, or will they outsource like they did social (to Facebook and Twitter)?
The iPad is still king of the tablets though it has lost market share to cheaper—and smaller—Android-based models that have grown in capability, specification and design. Apple has itself launched the iPad mini in the last couple of months and felt it necessary to compare how apps for iPads are generally better designed (in the examples given) than apps for Android tablets.
Actually, this year saw Apple refresh its entire line up of devices, a much-needed refresh in some cases. Some, however, still feel that Apple has lost the flair for innovation, lost their magician. Many are looking to Sir Jony Ive (oh yes, KBE) to see what he brings as he assumes a role only ever occupied by Steve Jobs in the past. Apple is still the brand that Exec’s want, with many insurers now working on ways to enable Apple devices in their enterprise.
Meanwhile innovation has come from an unexpected quarter. I’m not speaking of Android here—while I like the platform, it always felt too similar to the iPhone and desktop ’tiles of icons’ approach for me to call it truly innovative. Now Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and the Surface—these are quite different, clearly influenced by Microsoft's experience with Xbox—while I’ll admit I don’t like the interface yet, I can see myself and many others getting used to it. I mentioned TV earlier, and with Xbox, Microsoft now has a route to phone, tablet, TV and laptop/desktop if you still need one. Time will tell if the software wins people over.
The Surface is a strange device. Hardware built by a software provider to "showcase their software." The interesting thing is that anecdotal accounts suggest they got the hardware right, but the software has a way to go. This, frankly, is the right way. Once it’s in the hands of the customer, software is easy to fix but hardware isn’t—provided the customer sticks around. It’s not just customers watching the Surface though. IT departments are now supporting executives and business leaders who are carrying around a laptop and an iPad; the iPad is seemingly unable to completely usurp its predecessor but still preferable for many tasks. Could the Surface be the answer here?
Also IT departments are finding that they have different software for Windows machines, for Apple, for Blackberry, for Android—a single Microsoft solution could be very interesting.
Ah, and I have mentioned the dark horse. RIM and the Blackberry brand still has a huge footprint, especially in the insurance industry; could BB10 turn their fortunes around in 2013? Insurers want a solution for secure phones and tablets with simple administration ability, but Blackberry has lost ground. Could the once-leader, now-underdog and ugly duckling of the smartphones, make a comeback?
2012 was the year of Apple and Samsung in many ways, what of 2013?
Will the jilted generation of Apple fans shift? I own a third generation iPad, all too swiftly relegated to being “so last year” just a few months after release—there are plenty of angry blogs about new connectors with many saying Apple must innovate again to keep pace. A new connector was necessary and hardly an innovation—will the fans let Apple innovate? Will Microsoft continue its slow march, quietly stealing market share or will it’s coming software updates and apps win out? What of Blackberry this time next year? Will Google leverage its Motorola purchase for a new Nexus line and what of Asus, HTC, Samsung and the others?
It seems to me that everything's still on the table when it comes to personal computing in 2013, with surprises on the way.
Craig Beattie is an analyst in Celent's insurance practice.