Apple and Google Are Running Away With It


Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) is losing it. Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) feels that it can buy its way in. Nokia (NYS: NOK) is willing to switch allegiances -- at the right price.

These are just some of the many losers in the quest for market share in the booming smartphone market.

Fumble through your pockets until you find your smartphone. Is it an iPhone? Is it an Android? If not, you're probably cradling an endangered species.

Two kingdoms rule the world
Fresh data out of tech tracker IDC leave little doubt that we're living in a world of Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS and Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android.

Of the 152.3 million smartphones shipped during the first three months of the year, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, iPhones and Androids accounted for 82% of the market. To put this into the appropriate mind-blowing perspective, the two platforms combined for just 54.5% of the units shipped during last year's first quarter.

Didn't it seem as if Apple and Google were already cornering the market a year ago? Yes, but the growing global popularity of iOS and Android at the expense of older mobile operating systems is finally starting to take its toll overseas.

Nokia-championed Symbian -- a former fave around the world -- has seen its market share slip from 26% a year ago to less than 7% today. RIM's BlackBerry has seen its share of smartphone shipments cut in half to 6.4%. There were more devices powered by Linux and Windows shipped than there were a year ago, but neither platform is growing as quickly as the smartphone market itself. In other words, they too are surrendering market share.

Apple vs. Android
It's hard to complain about Apple. The world's most valuable technology company is the only one making some serious money in mobile since Google pitches Android as an open-source platform to handset manufacturers.

However, even though Apple and Google combine for 82% of the market, there really is just one company that's a threat to run away with the market on its own. In terms solely of market penetration, Android is the Simon to Apple's Garfunkel.

Android accounted for 89.9 million -- or 59% -- of the 152.3 million smartphones that were shipped this past quarter. That's a 145% surge over the past year.

Apple's no slouch. The 35.1 million iPhones it sold during the first three months of this calendar year -- a figure confirmed by the company in its fiscal second quarter -- represents an 89% improvement. Over the past year Apple has seen its share of the smartphone market grow from 18% to 23%. That's great, especially in a growing market, but the chin-scratching reality is that Apple's now a more distant silver medalist.

Apple fans don't care, and rightfully so. Apple's the one making most of the money in mobile. Google's giving it away. However, Apple isn't going to be happy if the Android continues to pad its lead. The moment that developers turn their attention to Android apps first may be a game changer.

Mr. Softy's Hail Mary pass
Windows may be a forgotten sixth-place finisher with just 2.2% of the market, but no one should be surprised if Microsoft pole vaults its way to the bronze medal in a year. Microsoft is rewarding Nokia handsomely to champion Windows Phone instead of Symbian. RIM is on a downward spiral. Linux may have its fringe fans, but there's no one financially backing the platform the way that Microsoft is invested in mobile.

If you've been watching TV over the past few weeks you've been bombarded with ads for Nokia's Lumia 900. Microsoft is taking this seriously, and it's never afraid to cut a big check. Reports earlier this year surfaced indicating that the world's leading software company is paying developers of hot iOS and Android titles to make sure that they back its fledgling platform.

The market seems to be carved in two right now. Apple has the well-to-do and fashion-forward markets covered. Android is gunning for the masses. If Microsoft succeeds -- and that's a big "if" right now -- it remains to be seen if it will simply come at the techie expense of BlackBerry or if it will be truly successful and disrupt Apple and Google.

Then again, why rain on the parade. This is the moment to shine for Android and iOS. Everyone else at this point is just jealous.

Apple jacks
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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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