Breaking news: “Research In Motion (RIMM) is working on a second-generation touch-screen BlackBerry Storm that could be available through Verizon (NYSE:VZ) as soon as September, according to UnwiredView.com.”
The immediate question: Will RIMM be a winner or loser and what will happen to its competitors, such as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) i-Phone, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile. See a more complete list below.
My answer comes from the perspective of a guy who has spent 40 years in the communications business and is the co-founder of a firm that is very much engaged in creating smart phone applications for numerous clients. The entire space is going to explode; competition will make that happen faster and wider; a new product for one player is positive news for all players.
The entire direction of the communications effort is always to find and exploit distribution channels that can deliver a message to a target in the most cost-efficient and powerful way. Put yourself in the shoes of somebody in the communications business and ask: “What can we do with smart phones?”
Here’s what you can do. On a hot July day at 2:00 PM, you can push a message to the guy standing on a street corner, and suggest how nice it would be to have an ice cream cone right about now. You can offer that person, just with a couple of clicks, the opportunity to order and pay for the cone and provide walking directions to the store just a few blocks away. Come on!
Let’s say you’re promoting a certain direction for a bill rending its way through Congress. The debate gets hot. You send a message to the smart phones of people you know are likely to support my side: click here to choose your senator or congressman; click here to choose the message you want to send; click here to send it. Great.
You have a dead car battery. Pull out your smart phone. Access the application you already downloaded from a towing service. Your name and billing information are already on file. Click the button on your smart phone to tell the towing service what’s wrong. Provide any special details. The tow truck knows exactly where your car is. It’s on the way.
This changes the game for me as a communicator. I want to get the application to your smart phone before you actually need to buy what I am selling. If I’m on your smart phone when you need it, I make the actual transaction then, but I made the “sale” when you downloaded the app. There will therefore be a fight for space on smart phone screens.
The forthcoming smart phones and the applications that will be developed for them are going to revolutionize communications in many ways. The impact will ripple well beyond the smart phone players noted above. Those that are able to see the trend, start getting out ahead of the trend, and agile enough to ride the trend are going to be winners. The space will be so big that players won’t have to be Number One in the space, just a serious contender. Here are some who are in the fight (admittedly, there are others):
§ Microsoft (MSFT): mobile operating system
§ Google (GOOG): Android mobile operating system
§ Research in Motion (RIMM): Blackberry mobile operating system and handsets
§ Apple (OTC:APPL): iPhone mobile operating system and handsets
§ Samsung (SMSN, London Exchange): handsets
§ Motorola (MOT): handsets
§ Palm (PALM): mobile operating system and handset
§ Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S): pipes
§ AT&T (NYSE:A): pipes
§ Verizon (VZ): pipes
§ HTC: Taiwanese company building smart phones for the Android system
By the way, Forbes has a current (April 6, 2009) and informative video on the entire issue you can find here.
Disclosure: I am not nor have I been an investor in any of the companies noted above